Millennials Not Quite as Pathetic as Everyone Thinks



For the better part of a decade now, folks have been fretting about "boomerang" kids, the 20- and sometimes 30-something children of boomers who've come flocking back to their parents' nests under the duress of a poor economy. "Everybody's moving into their parents' basements," The Washington Post warned in 2012. "A rising share of young adults live in their parents homes," Pew Research trumpeted last year. "One third of millennials are living with their parents," the headlines read in June. 

The dire pronouncements tend to be based on U.S. Census Bureau data, which does show an increasing number of young adults—more than half of those under 25, according to the most recent data—to be living with their parents. But Derek Thompson at The Atlantic tears through this gloomy prognosis with one simple fact: The Census counted students who live on college campuses as living in their parents' homes. 

The share of young people living "at home" is at a half-century high because more young adults than ever before are going to college: 

As you can see in the graph (above) the share of 18-to-24-year-olds living at home who aren't in college has declined since 1986. But the share of college students living "at home" (i.e.: in dorms, often) has increased. So the Millennials-living-in-our-parents meme is almost entirely a result of higher college attendance. 

That's crucial to know, because the share of 25- to 29-year-olds with a bachelor degree has grown by almost 50 percent since the early 1980s. More than 84 percent of today's 27-year-olds spend at least some time in college and now 40 percent have a bachelor's or associate's degree. More young people going to school means more young people living in dorms, which means more young people "living with their parents," according to the weird Census. 

Millennial generation doomsaying is fun and popular because it allows young folks to feel aggrieved and older folks to feel schadenfreude, writes Thompson. But if we're going to lament Gen Y's prospects, than we should at least focus on the real reasons today's kids are not okay—like unemployment: The latest jobs report shows that about 40 percent of unemployed workers are millennials.

Even this isn't quite as scary—or at least not as singularly scary for young adults—when you put it into perspective. When (if) the job market improves, young adults will likely have an easier time slipping back into it than their older counterparts simply by virtue of being younger and cheaper, said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding management and consulting firm.

Meanwhile millennials are only barely less employed than Gen X'ers, who make up 37 percent of unemployed Americans. The oldest Gen X'ers turn 50 next year, while the youngest hover around age 35. This is the generation in the prime of their "prime earning years." Whither the concern for Gen X everybody?

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  1. Millennials Not Quite as Pathetic as Everyone Thinks

    Ryan Gosling
    Movies featuring Jar-Jar Binks.

    Q.E. to the frickin’ D.

    1. Wouldn’t Jar Jar be entirely on the Boomers? As is nuking the fridge.

    2. Ryan Thomas Gosling (born November 12, 1980)…

      Gosling is well within Generation X.

      1. Up for debate. For the longest time, people said millennial generation started with people born in 1982, but recently they’ve been expanding backward to include 1980 on up (though like 1995 or something)

        1. Eh, I don’t think you’re a Millenial if Jimmy Carter was still president when you were born.

          1. I’m fine with that b/c I like being the oldest of the millennials.

        2. So the designation means precisely nothing.

          1. How can it not be completely arbitrary?

            1. Exactly. Generational trends are about as useful as astrology.

              1. Spoken like a true Capricorn

              2. I think the problem is that they can be useful in a limited, demography sort of way but everyone tries to make them mean a lot more than they do

                1. *generations can be useful, not generational trends, i meant

        3. I have long proposed that this system of “when you were born” is not as reliable indictor of your membership into a ‘cultural generation’ as is,

          “What was the first video game console you ever owned in your home and played?”

          Gen X get Atari 2600 through Nintendo NES. Commodore 64 is also classic GenX cred.

          Most Millenials are late-NES, and tend towards Sega Genesis.

          Another way of determining “how millenial” you are =

          Did you have a cell phone… in college?

          1. Or: Did you have Facebook in college?

            1. Face-what?…

              1. As a gen x/y cusper, though (or boomer/x cusper, or whatever) even these cultural cues end sort of placing you between the generations. I had no cell phone in college, but was the first class of non-Ivy Facebookers, etc.

                1. Right, that’s my point – the dividing lines aren’t so much age, as the experiences one thinks of as ‘normal’ which are in fact completely new to your age-group…

                  meaning, i think the biggest gap, culturally was the cell phones thing – because it completely altered how you related to people and behaved in terms of time-mangement.

                  I always noted that post-cell-phones, people were significantly less likely to be particularly specific about ‘time/place’, or making plans, because the idea was, “oh, lets just meet up later = I’ll *call* you”.

                  People in my generation actually ‘made plans’, and kept them, and later found it extremely annoying/disrespectful when you’d got to the bar, and had your buddy call and go “yeah, i went and got sushi – how bout we meet up later ; i’ll call you!”

            2. I don’t have Facebook now much less in college. OTOH, I was one of the first in college to have a hand held scientific calculator.

              1. Back in my day, we wore an onion on our belt.

          2. Chronologically, I’m a boomer (barely).

            Culturlogically, I’m an Xer.

            1. At least that’s what you tell the young ladies you try to pick up in the bar.

          3. I had a friend with a Magnavox Odyssey. The closest I came to “owning a video game console” was the handheld LCD game where babies dropped out of a burning building and you bounced them across the street with firemen holding a net.

        4. As somebody who was born in 1979, I have little in common with “Millenials” or with “Gen X” people as they are commonly portrayed. I’m certainly not a member of either of those groups.

          1. SPLITTER!

  2. Whither the concern for Gen X everybody?

    It went thataway.

  3. my millenials are all working and living on their own. And yes, we downsized on purpose. There is room enough so that a visit is comfortable but a prolonged stay is not.

  4. There’s a lot more wrong with Millennials than them living at home.

  5. I just RTFA…

    … where was the part about Millenials NOT being exactly what the data says about them, again?

    because i missed the surprising payoff.

    Also – when you want to write an article about how things don’t suck as much as common sense tells you, then DONT quote “Millennial Branding management and consulting firm” as your prime source of reliable, objective perspective.

    Its like = “Burning Sensation Caused by Ben Gay on Balls? Not as Tissue-Damaging as the Excruciating Pain May Indicate!”, says PR Spokesman for Johnson & Johnson

    1. “… where was the part about Millenials NOT being exactly what the data says about them, again?”

      The part where the data says they’re all living at home with their parents even when they’re not?

      1. Oh, is that what the complaint was about?

        I was under the impression the “pathetic” part about millenials is their endless whining about how their lot in life is so unfair because they lived their childhoods all through out of control rocketing-boom economies, and the second they get into the ‘real world’ “things arent fun and free anymore!?” so they’ve decided to spend most of their prime-years on key activities of self-betterment like wasting thousands of hours fucking around w/ social media, creating Memes/Vines/viral-somethings, and perpetuating/spreading endless economic myths to explain why everything would be better if like debt were erased and corporations weren’t people.

        I never thought where they ‘lived’ mattered much.

        1. Right, right, get off my lawn, etc.

          1. I’m being honest! = If they lived in Mom’s basement, Id have no reason to complain!

            To be fair, I spent the last 15 years living in Williamburg Brooklyn and have been assaulted with the worst and most extreme examples of the species, 24/7. I’m the token ‘not-millenial’, surrounded by…. THIS

            If i’m a little salty, its

            1. …for a good reason.

            2. Ha, fair enough. I lived near Williamsburg for a bit, and that is enough to turn anyone off millennials.

          2. I was in High School/starting college during Bush I and I don’t recall any Occupy Movement.

            1. The Occupy Movement seems to have only learned that “the 1%”/plutocracy existed after the 2008 financial crisis

  6. I’m trying to get out of my parents’, it’s just California is ridiculously expensive.

    1. Get out of California.

      1. Yeah, seriously, come to Washington/Seattle area where it’s only 87% as expensive and retarded as California which much worse weather.

        And we have our very own socialist on the city council who comes with her own book on economics, never been read, only dropped once!

    2. Sounds like you’d rather live in your parent’s basement than anywhere you can afford. Which is your decision, and theirs, so really none of my business.

      After law school, I lived a stretch in a Y, and at one point actually had to sell plasma to buy ramen noodles. The thought of moving back in with my parents literally never crossed my mind. There was also that restraining order, of course, but my point stands.

  7. back to their parents’ nests under the duress of a poor economy. “Everybody’s moving into their parents’ basements,”

    Just for everyone’s edification, I believe I was seeing articles about this trend back in the mid-late 80s.

    1. yep. You could tell those Millenials were going to be losers *even as they were being born*

  8. The Census counted students who live on college campuses as living in their parents’ homes.

    to be fair, financially, this is often the same thing.

    “Dad, send me money, pay for my college, pay my bills, but let me live over here so you’re not hitting me with a bummer head-trip about responsibility”

  9. Derek Thompson at The Atlantic tears through this gloomy prognosis with one simple fact: The Census counted students who live on college campuses as living in their parents’ homes.

    The share of young people living “at home” is at a half-century high because more young adults than ever before are going to college

    So millennial are doing peachy because they are all going to college — that state-subsidized kidult care complex catering to Peter Pan Syndrome to the tune of state government bankruptcy and out of control debt?

    Well gee, let’s throw a goddamn party everybody.

  10. There are a few things wrong with my generation, but if I had to choose just one it would be the apathy or ignorance of the extent to which older generations are using the government to screw us over.

    1. Your demographic is the most reliable for Barry. It’s not apathy –that was us X’ers– it’s rapture. *shrug*

      On the plus side, because you so significantly outnumber us X’ers you can get around to reforming entitlements when my generation is on them–I plan to be completely independent of them. I expect a significant amount of fiscal insight in about 25-30 years.

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