Which generation is greener?

view-oct-sun-059It was April 22, 1970, and I was so envious of my friend. Warm buttery sunshine flowed from a mostly cloudless sky, and the breeze was just a gentle brush of air. Basically a picture perfect day in the small college town in the middle of the Illinois prairie. And I was stuck in the confines of a brick and concrete high school while my friend had joined a group from Illinois State University outside. All my parents had to do was sign a form permitting me to go, but my mother didn’t think it was wise for me to be mingling with the much older college students.

My friend came back to school that afternoon wearing her swingy hippy-style printed caftan top that complemented the faint reddish glow on her arms and face from the sun her skin absorbed during the march out to the edge of town, where they planted the symbolic tree. She friend was probably more excited about being out of school and getting the first blush of a summer suntan than the importance of involvement in the first Earth Day celebration. Still ask almost any Baby Boomer back in the seventies and the preserving the natural environment was a favorite cause, on a similar footing to halting the war in Vietnam.

Often my generation is criticized for global warming and other damage to the environment that has occurred over the past fifty years. It is true that Baby Boomers have become less concerned about the earth, as they became more concerned about energy to run the new technological advances. However, 60% of current Baby Boomers agree with 71% of Millennials in saying that we should development of alternative energy sources that are less polluting rather than expanding exploration of oil, coal and natural gas. It is the majority of the Silent generation that preferred not looking for alternative sources of energy that have directed much of our emphasis in drilling oil in the past. [1]

As a look back on my teenage years I realize the newly heightened interest in preserving what the earth, separated the Boomers from those that that the earth had plenty to offer with little impact on our environment. I am a little worried that the percentage of Millennials who are interested being active to preserve the environment has decreased by a third, compared to the Baby Boomers when they were young.[2] As a generation ages, there is a tendency to become less idealistic and less involved in causes they believe in. Currently there is a much smaller number of Millennials actively concerned with the environment than there were among my peers when I was young. However there is some hope; the most recent generation has grown up with recycling, distrust of excessive pesticides and appreciation for cars that use less gas as part of their everyday life. Finally, I realize that many Millennials are bummed about the fact that they will have a lower standard of living than their parents, but this is actually a good thing for the environment.

Photo by S.L. Listman

[1] http://www.people-press.org/2011/11/03/section-8-domestic-and-foreign-policy-views/ “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election, Section 8: Domestic and Foreign Policy Views“ Pew Research Center, November 3, 2011
[2] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/03/fame-giving.aspx “Recent Generations Focus More on Fame, Money Than Giving Back” American Psychological Association, March 15, 2012

 

 

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The changing meaning of money

SC_charleston_houseTo my grandparents, born around 1900, money meant a kind of stability that allowed them to stay in one place and raise a family. Both of my grandparents had moved frequently as children. My grandfather wanted to buy a farm to provide a living that didn’t have depend on the whims of working for a boss in a company. Inauspiciously, he borrowed money to do this a few years before the crash of 1929. During the depression the farm provided food, but very little money as most people simply didn’t have the extra funds to buy fresh produce. Sometimes they would receive clothes or other goods for fresh truck crops. The person who loaned him the money was wise enough wait to for his money rather than take over a farm he probably could not sell to anyone else. My grandparent’s less fortunate relatives came to stay with them, so having the money was not as important as a place to call home.

My mother grew up and lived in one house until she left for college. My father did not have that luxury as his own father died when he was still young. He was not averse to leaving familiar places behind for opportunities. After serving 6 years in the military during World War II, he took advantage of the GI bill to pay for his degree. During the sixties and seventies we moved every few years because my father worked for company with the innovative idea of developing engineers by moving them to experience all facets of the company business. That might be great for developing people with a greater competency across the company, but it was tough on families to constantly face the challenges of adapting to a new community, new school, etc. It also made it nearly impossible for my mother to have her own career. However, for my father the importance of money was not to secure a single homestead, but as the sole provider for his family it was to give his family a life free from need and his children the opportunity to attend college.

My transient upbringing was not the same thing that occurred to most of my peers. They grew up in one place and moved into a larger nearby house as their family had more children and accumulated more possession. Money was a source not only of necessities but also “play things” which became a sign of status. After the sixtes, the United States economic growth met little bumps of recessions but kept recovering nicely until the economy started a steep decline that hit bottom in 2009. Being wealthy allowed some Baby Boomers to foot the bill for sky-rocketing education costs for their own children.

Meanwhile the idea crept in that one had to have money to make money, as a number of people had previously made money investing while  interest rate on savings had become laughably low. For Generation X and the Millennials that followed them, having money was a way to prevent the slide into a lower, struggling class. The lower class that they fear slipping into still has more in material possession than my parents did when growing up during the depression. That didn’t matter as they had no memory of life in the Great Depression. The chance to pull oneself up by the bootstraps seemed to have passed, so starting off with an advantage seemed to be a necessity to keep from losing ground.

The younger generation is really not imagining that they have something to fear:

“Millennials have benefited the least from the economic recovery following the Great Recession, as average incomes for this generation have fallen at twice the general adult population’s total drop and are likely to be on a path toward lower incomes for at least another decade.”[1]

So now you have a glimpse into why millennials have indicated that being wealthy is much more important to them than did the generations that came before them.

[1] Smith, Elliot Blair. “American Dream Fades for Generation Y Professionals.” Bloomberg L.P. 20 December 2012
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Is leadership training necessary?

George_Washington,_cWhat turns an ordinary person into a leader? Is it  an inborn aptitude; is it a learned skill? More than anything else a chance to practice leading provides the key. Leaders learn by leading. One of the things that Millennials are finding is they are just beginning to get opportunities to do this, but a large percentage of the smaller Gen X group that preceded them had even less chance to do this.

We need to look back at the beginning of the twentieth century to see how events have affected generational attitudes in the United States. The G.I. (or War) Generation, was born in the first quarter of the twentieth. Many lived through two world wars, and a number actually fought in one of them. They suffered though the through depression as teenagers and young adults. They produced a laudable number of leaders, but on the average didn’t live as long as the generation that followed them.

Also, most of the G.I. generation and the Silent generation, which followed them, received far more in social security benefits than they paid into the system. The Silent generation was relatively small due to the low birth rate during the depression and war years, but they found it easier to move up the economic ladder than any currently living generation in USA. Part of this was due to the devastation of World War 2 on the rest of the world. These generations may have experienced poverty but economic boom allowed many to retire early.They were willing to turn leadership over to the younger, more impertinent Baby Boomers.

Boomers showed more of a distinct change in culture from their parents, with drastically different tastes in music and clothes. They also had a more anti-authoritarian attitude than the two generations that came before them. However, a study on work values of the different generations made an interesting observation on this generation’s view of authority:

“Now, there is an exception for Boomers’ distrust of authority, and this exception is evoked when they are the ones in power.”[1]

Interestingly, generation born between 1946 and 1964 did not receive much of anything in the way of leadership training as they began to managing people; that was one of the purposes of attending college. Prior to Baby Boomers those that moved up into leadership were predominantly white and male, and often received the advantages of nepotism. The older cohorts of Boomers were raised in this tradition. But then came crusades for civil rights and feminism. More people made their profession a priority over their family. The cry arose for this opportunity of leadership to be extended to diverse groups. So there was a larger pool to be considered for leaders.

Boomers often assume that their age gives them privileges that younger generations have not yet gained. However, the right to remain the generation in power is a perceived right that they have clung to, unwilling to pass this on. This has left the Gen X and Millennial generations lacking in opportunities to improve their leadership abilities. So the need has arisen to train the younger generations for the task of leadership.

Will this work as well as experience? We’ll find out in the years to come. Meanwhile becoming a leadership trainer or coach gives the Boomers another kind of career they can transition into, which is helpful, because due to recent economic downturns many are never planning on retiring.

[1] Dogan Gursoy, Thomas A. Maier, and Christina G. Chi, “Generational Differences: An Examination of Work Values and Generational Gaps in the Hospitality Workforce, International Journal of Hospitality Management, 27 (2008):451
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What do you want from your job?

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAYou have heard it so often that it may seem cliché. What Millennials want at work is not more money. They want a higher quality of work/life balance. That means more flexibility… to work from home in pajamas, to take time to flesh out their new ideas, or to be given an opportunity to be in charge. The increase for ranking wealth as very important by college freshman, from 40% for Boomers to 70% for Millennials[1] indicates that Millennials really do want money more than prior generations. So why is more pay not as much of a lure for them to switch jobs as more flexibility and authority?

When I consider my early work experience I recall that perks – such as driving a company car, taking days off for numerous “community” events, or attending a team building retreat in Sedona – were the privileges of that divided management from those of us that had to show up at the office and work from eight hours, five days a week. Such privileges conferred status; the less necessary it was for you to be at the office on a daily basis, the more clout you had. Flexibility and authority went hand in hand with higher pay. This is something that millennials observed as they grew up. They understand that the reputation for importance at work is a key to obtaining both status and more lucrative work.

Millennials are viewing their career from the perspective of someone beginning a journey. The top thing they look for in a new position is opportunity to learn and grow. This is closely followed by quality of the manager and management, which is often based on the reputation of the company.[2] They understand that creating a reputation for themselves is the key to both more status and more lucrative work. But in the current economy, businesses aren’t prospering as much and money is tight. So if millennials can’t have a higher salary, they might as well look like they do. More responsibility coupled with more authority and the ability to work from home, or take off as they see fit has the appearance of a higher salary. These appearances may actually translate into more money next time they hop to another new job.

Boomers are viewing their career from the perspective of someone ending a journey. They have seen enough opportunity for growth and learning. Often “new” learning is simply relearning a procedure using a new software application. In my field, training and education, the new concept to learn is often the recycling of a theory that became the rage and then went out of vogue 50 years ago.  They are also aware of the stresses of positions of responsibility. Boomers seek high quality managers and management first. They know how hard these are to find. They also understand that quality in these areas lead to higher job security and less uncertainty about the future of their job. Like the millennials they also seek the type of work that interests them, but opportunity to cash in on future advancement is not as likely. The fourth most important characteristic of work, for Boomers in tight economic times, is a good compensation package.[3] With a short term future in their sights they want to avoid working until they are no longer able to without a drastic drop in their standard of living.

What this boils down to is the millennials versus the boomer ranking of the importance of a high salary (compared to others qualities of a job) is largely based on how much longer they expect to be working.

Photo by Nate Cull, CC 2.0
[1] American Freshman survey by the Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA
[2] Brandon Rigoni, Amy Adkins, “What Millennials Want from a New Job” Harvard Business Review, May 11, 2016
[3] ibid
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The desire for transparency

image0012b-copyEarlier this week was the 75th anniversary of “A date which will live in infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in the U.S territory of Hawaii. The fact that the United States was vulnerable to such a destructive attack shook American confidence to its roots. The United States wanted Japanese to leave China and Southeast Asia, and had finally halted oil imports, but the two countries were not at war, and this reason for this unannounced aggression seemed unfathomable.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was simply an historical artifact to my generation, the first of whom were not born until 5 years later. So we reeled in shock in 2001 at the devastating day we would “Never forget” when two hi-jacked airliners were flown into the World Trade Center resulting in their fiery collapse. This unconscionable attack was apparently retribution for a foreign policy that favored Israel over the Palestinians. However, my youngest child barely remembers that tragic day.

It is not so much that each generation forgets the past as much as they do not remember the emotional impact of major events. This is quite natural. They did not live through the fear of uncertainty. Learning about an event while knowing the outcome is not anywhere the same as surviving it. And in some ways this is beneficial, as we would be paralyzed by the collective fear of all the acts of mass destruction for imperceptible causes that seem to reoccur every generation.

The changes in the everyday cycles of our lives caused by past politics and events, both outrageous and ordinary, still mold the next generation. The two long term surveys, Monitoring the Future study of high school seniors, and the American Freshman survey of college freshman have found an increasing cynical outlook from Generation X to the Millennials. “As of 2012, only 19 percent of Millennials said that, generally, others can be trusted.”[1]

Accompanying this lack of trust, the surveys indicate a decline in community involvement among the younger generation. There is also a decreasing desire to keep on top of politics, descending from 50% for baby boomers to 35% for millennials.[2] You must remember these surveys occurred when people in the generations where mostly between 17 and 19 years old. I am not terribly worried. Typically with an increase in age there is an increasing attention to community and politics.

However, I can understand the recent generation’s skepticism with leadership. During the time of the World Wars when my parents were growing up, information about difficulties faced by this country was not widespread. Their understanding of the world was based on their local situation. Also, there was no proliferation of fake news on Facebook. Currently it is much easier to get both information and disinformation, and harder to discern between the two. Many Boomers haven’t seemed to catch on the fact that practically all new reports are biased, with increasing “spin” to woo audiences. The electronic age has made it easier to produce through media and internet what we want others to see. This mass amount of information is of no use if a large portion has an untrue slant.

So we may fret about how the millennials do not comprehend formative events of earlier generations, but no amount of “education” will ever duplicate what we lived through. However, we could learn from their skepticism. In light of the decrease in factual reporting, we need to dig down further and not take what friends, celebrities or politicians say at face value. We need to insist on real transparent sources. Keeping abreast of truth concerning politics is a frustrating endeavor. What the millennials desire now is transparency in an era of increasing muddying of the facts.

[1] http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/millennials-millennial-generation
[2] Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before, 2007

 

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Impossible to be unbiased?

aside2Early in my career at the turn of the decade (between the 1970s and 1980s) my boss gathered everyone in the office to watch a film on generational differences. When the polished speaker concluded his presentation, I noticed an interesting omission.

Turning to one of my co-workers I commented, “He said a lot about the characteristics of people in their twenties, those from forty to fifty, and those over fifty. But he never really discussed people in their thirties.”

She smiled pertly and with a flip of her head quipped, “That’s because we’re practically perfect.”

Then, I realized the film was targeted towards thirty-somethings, and had been made because they obviously were not as perfect as she assumed when it came to accepting differences.

Descriptions of generational differences largely continue to be entrenched in biases based on the viewpoint of a specific age-group. Managers over fifty complain that millennials don’t want to put in the long, hard hours necessary to advance and won’t stay put at their jobs. The smaller group in their forties describe how a poor economy has prevented them from advancing and now they are getting passed over for younger “digital natives.” Those in their thirties defend the need to job-hop in order to see any kind of upward progress. The younger group still in their twenties assert that growing up with computers from the time they left the crib has given them  the advantage, while complaining about being strapped with college loans that their elders didn’t have to worry about. No one seems to be able to step back and look at the differences without taking sides.

In order to get a less biased look, I’ve been reading research based on two long-term surveys, that have sampled the behaviors, opinions, and values of young people over nearly fifty years. The American Freshman survey has been conducted among new college students since 1966 by the Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA. “Monitoring the Future” or the National High School Senior Survey, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, has studied attitudes of high school seniors since 1975.

There are some interesting trends that come to light from these studies. When Baby Boomers were in seniors in high school seniors and college freshman around 45% consider wealth a very important attribute. This attitude which has been increasing over time has risen to 75% among the Millennials. Although, the younger generation may not consider wealth more important than the older generation does now, they are deeming it a driving goal at a much younger age. The reason for attending college has also shifted in this same manner. The idea of learning in order to develop a meaningful philosophy of life has decreased from 73% for Boomers to 45% for Millennials.[1] Whereas about 70% of students went to college to learn about life and improve themselves (or perhaps to avoid the draft) in the early ‘70s by the turn of the century that same percentage were attending college as a way to become well off financially.[2]

So why don’t these trends seem to match so many articles on generational differences? Because we tend to compared what opinions the different generational groups hold now. Most 55 year olds will perceive things differently than 25 year olds no matter which generational group  they belong to. The split in opinions is also an in-group versus out-group comparison. It is impossible to look at a group with differences from our own in as generous and accepting manner as we see the people that resemble us, or at least resemble us outwardly. People the same age as us, look more like us and we do not judge them as harshly, because we considered them as part of an age-based in group. We all have a tendency to forget that we ourselves are nowhere remotely near “practically perfect.”

[1] Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before, 2007
[2]  “A Long Way from Flower Power” Economist, January 17, 1998 p. 26
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The politics of Millennials

electorial-map-copy By Gage – 2012 Electoral College map, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35172210

When my daughter tried to register to vote in Texas, she ran into numerous complications. First there was the problem of what county she was voting in. As a college student she lived in an apartment at the edge of campus as many other students did. The university she attended did not even attempt to have enough housing for all non-local students. By the time she registered it was too close to the election for her to be allowed to vote. The next year she moved onto campus and had to go through the whole process again. However, many of her friends also had difficulty with registering. The state of Texas wanted all their documentation to match exactly.

Ironically, I carried around a driver’s license with the name of my street misspelled on it to vote in polling places in Texas for years. I didn’t even know where my voter’s registration card was. It was not necessary to have both an ID and voter’s card. It is unfortunate that we criticize millennials for lack of political involvement when we have made it harder for them to become involved.

My daughter and her friends were not alone in encountering difficulties registering to vote. Russell Dalton, a political science professor at University of California, Irvine has found that legislation passed by some states has made voter registration increasing difficult for millennials who attend college. This includes shortening the windows for registration, refusing to accept student IDs, rejecting some documents normally accepted as proof of residency and forcing people to register in person the first time. Dalton noted that it is economic necessity that often cause the younger millennials to move frequently. Many entry jobs are temporary positions that last less than a year. However, this means re-registering to vote or requesting absentee ballots. There are myriad rules concerning these in the different counties in throughout the 50 states, which just adds to the confusion.[1]

Many have noted that the generation ranging in age from 18 to 33 are not attracted to organized politics. When it comes identifying their political affiliation, the largest group refers to themselves as independents. Their major interests are government alleviating the sky-rocketing cost of higher education and  health care, which companies refuse to provide for the increasing number of “temporary” employees.[2] As the recent election drew nearer a frequent response to surveys was that no matter who won, the next president would not address these concerns.

The truth is that they are highly distrustful of politicians, and they have a pessimistic outlook for improvement in government. Why? Because they perceive the leaders as corrupt. This view includes both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.[3] When we were discussing the upcoming election my son pointed out the rather distressful fact that the candidates of both major parties were under criminal investigation.

The level of trust that millennials have in most American institutions has continued to shrink to historically low numbers.[4] As baby boomers we are not fond this, because we see in it an inherent criticism in our institutions. So many people my age continue to level criticism at the younger generation for lack of involvement in politics and interest only in issues that affect them, forgetting the manner in which politicians courted the huge boomer generation as we turned of age in the 1970’s. But at this point I must agree with the millennials lack of trust.

[1] https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2016/08/24/need-to-know-millennials-and-politics/
[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/25/bernie-sanders-is-profoundly-changing-how-millennials-think-about-politics-poll-shows/
[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/for-millennial-voters-the-clinton-vs-trump-choice-feels-like-a-joke/2016/08/13/306d85a2-609c-11e6-8e45-477372e89d78_story.html
[4] http://iop.harvard.edu/trust-institutions-and-political-process
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Entitlement

dscn4039-cStart a discussion about the millennials with those who are older and you are bound to hear about their sense of entitlement: desire for constant positive feedback, and unwillingness to put time in doing drudgery before moving up in an organization. It is not that the younger generation feel that they are superior. Rather they have a sense that they are equal to the generations that came before them, even though they are still young, inexperienced, and yet to make their mark on the world. Many simply do not view those in authority as any different from themselves.

I see an irony in the older generations looking down on people under thirty four for viewing the world from a flat rather than hierarchical perspective. Back in 1964 when the oldest of the baby boomers were just reaching their twenties, a newspaper writer quoted activist Jack Weinberg as saying “We have a saying in the movement that you can’t trust anybody over 30.”[1] A number of baby boomers took this advice to heart, even though it was intended as a tongue in cheek quote. Within a decade or so, they would beyond the age of being trustworthy according to their own words. Many of us didn’t simply assume we were equal to our elders, we assumed we were better than them.

The sense of entitlement seems to be correlated with youth. No matter how strict a generation is with their young, children as whole lead a more pampered life than adults. Good parents take care of their children’s needs, so believing one is entitled to receive things from others is a hallmark of childhood. It is also an indication of immaturity as one gets older.

What causes people to remain stuck in the belief that are entitled as they become adults? For one thing, growing up with privileges and wealth does. The world of baby boomers was one in which greater abundance seemed normal. We became used to equating what we wanted with what we needed. As research has shown, children coming from families with higher socio-economic status  do better in school and business. But this comes at the price of increasing depression and self-destructive behavior among the children of the privileged class as they struggle to develop their own identity.[2]

The world without a hierarchy, in which the elder is no more, or no less entitled than the younger, may actually be an idealistic view. But then idealism is also a characteristic of youth.

[1] Benet, James (1964-11-15). “Growing Pains at UC”. San Francisco Chronicle.
[2] Luthar SS. The culture of affluence: Psychological costs of material wealth. Child Development. 2003;74(6):1581–1593.
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Educational play

stephs (4)When I was growing up there were a few “structured” learning events outside of school. A week of nature day camp in the summer, horse riding instructions, followed by a pony we had to take care of, and piano lessons, which I got after I begged for them. My friends had been showing off playing “Heart and Soul” as a duet on the school piano and it looked like so much fun. Then, there was the sporadic trip to a museum or classical music concert. But most of our “free” time was really free time.

Those few children that were born in the generation between baby boomers and millennials often were often known as latch key children. They let themselves in after school, with an unsupervised hour or two before tired parents (or often a single parent) drug themselves in the door from work, followed by a fast food or microwave dinner and then they were on their own again.

Starting  around 1990’s, entrepreneurs realized there was a desire to provide the increasing number of young children a kind of educational play so parents could relax or go shopping without the children and without feeling guilty. So those born after 1985 grew up with more videos, interactive electronic toys, and talking books that were supposed to make them smarter. When my children were young I saw a mushrooming number of child sized indoor playgrounds and gyms that were supposed to make them stronger, or at least tire them out. This structured “play” continued with athletic competition provided for those as young as four years old.

As millennials generation reached school age everyone was supposed to be on a sport team (or two), in addition to after school clubs to improve a child’s competitive edge by learning everything from Scrabble to science experiments to chess. In the summer break from school there were library book clubs, drawing, dancing and acting lessons.

Perhaps parents who pushed their children a too wholeheartedly into the constantly structured activities had an inkling of how competitive it was going to be in the future. There were signs of the times to come – increasing number of quality goods being made oversees which meant less manufacturing jobs, and the United States slipping behind other countries in providing education. Trying to start a career that could actually pay the bills with only a high school degree would become increasingly hard during the 1980’s. Soon it would be impossible.

Even as the length of the millennial’s childhood was expanding beyond that of previous generations. The quality of their childhood was less “childlike.” It was not necessarily safe enough to ride their bikes edge of town, and beyond, as I did the summers during junior high and high school. Besides this aimless bike-riding is not seen as productive as running sprints on a soccer field. Now, there are fewer shopping districts to meander through on the main streets of small towns because malls have taken over. I remember how bored would get on long, languid, summer days. Much of the merchandise in Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime was barely more than 10 cents. But the merchandise didn’t change that often. With nothing new to buy and nothing to watch on TV but reruns, I spent hours curled up on the couch reading books about other times and places, never realizing how much I was really learning.

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How long before they move out?

800px-rcc_2008_day_cThe trend that many talk about is how millennials are remaining with their families longer. According to a recent Pew Report “In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household.”[1] When will they grow up, settle down, buy a house, get married and raise a family? How long before they act like real adults?

Actually, the fact that so many people from the baby boomer generation moved out of their parent’s house in their early twenties is really the anomaly. When one looks at past generations, the number of couples between 18 and 34 that lived in their own home peaked in 1960 and then started to decline. You must remember it was only twenty years before the 1960’s that more than 30% of adults between 18 to 34 still lived at home. In the 1940’s, as now, economic uncertainty had a great deal of influence on the unwillingness to strikeout and live on one’s own.

The difference between 2016 and 1940 is that those adults who left their families during the hard years following the depression typically had a spouse by their side. Now, adults tend to move out on their own, or in an arrangement were they are sharing rent with one or more friends, leaving the largest group of this age living at home. Part of the reason is that younger men’s wages, have been moving mainly downward since 1970, if adjusted for inflation. While young women’s wages, which hovered around 60 to 70% of male income at that that time, have not declined in this fashion. All of this points to fact that fewer men can afford to be married, and more women would rather depend on a career. Those who graduate from college are more likely to live on their own, and slightly more women than men are graduating from college now.

It seems as if Millennials are reluctant to get married, but they’ve been watching the baby boomers who are reluctant to stay married. With increasing wealth in the seventies came an increasing divorce rate, and the boomers have the highest divorce rate and second marriages in the history of the United States.[2]  Chances are the all those adult children still at home are living with Dad and Step-Mom, or Mom and Step-Dad, or the single parent who did not manage to remarry.

photo:Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis,  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

[1] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/05/24/for-first-time-in-modern-era-living-with-parents-edges-out-other-living-arrangements-for-18-to-34-year-olds/#fn-21647-1
[2] http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf
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