This is more of a rant, but feel free to comment.
I am a GenXer. The employees that report to me are all Millennials. On multiple occassions they have complained that my generation ruined the economy and that the economy sucks. That surprized me, because my personal experience is that the economy is just as good if not better now than at any other time in my adult life (no counting under age 18). I asked them why they feel this way. Their response is that the economy sucks because they don’t have any savings in the bank. I’m not going to jump on the anti-Millennium bandwagon because of that statement, but since they are all recent college grads that have just entered the workforce, it was a naive, perhaps ignorant, comment. However, it lead me to think, no savings aside, why would a young Millennial think the economy sucks. It lead me to this conclusion:
Statistically speaking, the economy is better than when I was their age. The stats I looked at were very simple, but show a trend. Minimum wage in my area has increased by 124%, gas has only increased by 78%, milk has actually decreased by 13%, unemployment has decreased by 2.5 percentage points, the average home price has only increased by 22%, and the inflation rate has decreased by 0.62 percentage points. So what is the difference?
There is a reason that Gen X is known as a generation of latchkey kids, a lot of our parents both had to work in order to make ends meet, and we had to fend for ourselves most of the time. Because of this, our parents may not have felt that they could handle the financial responsibility of having a lot of kids. This is likely why the percentage of stay-at-home moms (parents) was considerably lower then than it is now. This situation may also explain the disparity in the number of GenXers and Millennials.
This disparity is another factor that may contribute to their perception that the economy is bad is that there are so many millennials, 92 million, compared to 61 million Gen Xers, which creates more competition for jobs, which, in turn, drives down what employers need to pay. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. In my area, there are plenty of jobs available, but most of them are entry-level, minimum-wage jobs. Ironically, that is also what was available to me when I entered the workforce. There just weren’t very many jobs available back then, which is why unemployment was higher. Imagine what the unemployment rate would have been back then if there were an additional 31 million people in the country.
Another factor is that there is so much pressure on the Millennials to get a college degree. College is now much more expensive, pushing Millennials into debt before they ever join the work force. Then, when they get their degree, there is so much competition amongst college-educated Millennials that supply and demand again dictates that their college education doesn’t get them the high-paying job they anticipated. So, they are further burdened with debt, because they cannot balance the cost of living with paying off student debt, again, due to the lower wages. I’m not going to use this as a basis to criticize going to college. However, supply and demand again comes into play because a college degree in a field that has a shortfall of college-educated applicants will ensure a higher-paying job, whereas a college degree in a field that is saturated will result in the scenario I described above.
My conclusion is not that the economy is bad. The issue that Millennials are dealing with is an overpopulation of Millennials.