This year, millennials are going to become the largest demographic group of the United States. They number about 75 million and are the most impactful generation since baby boomers. Millennials are adults under the age of 35. They differ from previous generations and their various traits are going to have an impact on the way the economy behaves. Sociologists are already trying to understand a generation whose values seem to be different than those of their parents. Their economic behavior is going to prove to be a challenge for the future growth and prosperity of the country.
A Different Generation
Millennials became adults during the worst financial crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression. As they were growing up, the economy was going down and there was little reason for optimism. This has left a mark on this particular generation. They behave differently than other generations that grew up in more economically comfortable situations. And their caution and lack of enthusiasm is going to affect the shape of the economy for decades from now on.
Popular culture presents millennials as lacking focus. They seem to bounce from job to job without a clear career path or any loyalty to the companies that hire them. They postpone events like marriage or starting a family until later. Many are still living with their parents and have no plans of getting a mortgage. Despite not having much to show for it, this generation is the best educated in the history of the United States. It is also the most diverse and inclusive.
Millennials face many challenges such as finding and holding on to a job or an unfriendly housing market. But some feel that millennials are just too self-involved and perceive them as a spoiled generation.
Different Economic Behavior
Their influence on the economy wasn’t immediately visible, as millennials didn’t have a lot of economic power. They crossed over to adulthood at a time of economic instability. That made it difficult for them to find jobs that paid well. Also, many had already accumulated considerable debt in the form of student loans. So their imprint on the economy was light.
But looking closely at the economic choices millennials make, patterns of behavior emerge. They are not big spenders. Usually, they’re careful with their budget, even thrifty. They are less materialistic than previous generations and don’t care about accumulating stuff. A millennial will prefer paying for a memorable experience over buying an object. The experience can be captured in a selfie or a video that they will later share. Millennials are connected through social networks and share their experiences online. So spending money on their hobbies, their travels or their social outings that they can share online makes more sense to them.
Another trait of the millennial is that he or she doesn’t like taking big risks. Becoming an adult during a time of economic uncertainty makes someone more circumspect about their prospects. Millennials are less entrepreneurial than the previous generation that built so many tech companies. They are less likely to start their own business. This could have an effect on innovation and technological progress in the United States.
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