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Get to Know Us. Not Enabled Word Wise: Enabled Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item Would you like to tell us about a lower price? The Baby Boomers—those born between and —were the first generation to adopt a widely accepted label. Millennials have been widely studied, with numerous surveys highlighting ways in which they differ from older generations.
For example, a survey by Pew Research Center revealed that Millennials are much more likely than Boomers and Gen Xers to describe themselves as political independents. As we describe below, Millennials are indeed different from prior generations of young people in a number of ways. For example, Millennials are living at home longer, are slower to buy a car, and are much more likely to have student debt.
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However, other than their high levels of student debt, many of the attributes associated with Millennials are related to the economic conditions prevailing at the time when they came of age like the Great Recession rather than fundamental differences in their aspirations. It also can inform strategies for how federal, state, and local governments can overcome some of the perceived difficulties in attracting and retaining Millennials in their workforces.
Numbering over 66 million, the current group of to year-olds—although they make up a smaller proportion of the total population than the Boomers—is the largest ever in the United States figure 1. Because Boomers are now moving into retirement and Gen Xers are fewer in number, Millennials have recently inched past the other generations to corner the largest share of the labor market they make up The Millennials are also more highly educated than those in earlier generations. Figure 2 shows college enrollment rates among young people in , , and , representing enrollment among Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials, respectively.
As the figure shows, the college enrollment rate among Millennials in all age groups is higher than the rate for either older generation. Completion rates are also increasing, with Even though a higher proportion of Millennials are choosing to attend college, they are not showing an increased inclination to major in high-demand areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the STEM fields. Figure 3 shows that, despite decades of rhetoric highlighting the need for more STEM graduates, only a slightly higher proportion of Millennials than Gen Xers are graduating with majors in biological and biomedical sciences and computer and information sciences.
Millennials proportionately trail Boomers in all STEM majors except for computer and information sciences. Instead, many Millennials are choosing to major in business Higher college attendance among Millennials does not come close to explaining the defining characteristic of the generation—the explosion in student debt. During the —96 school year, the approximate midpoint of when the Gen Xers were in college, For the most recent school year, —13, the proportion further expanded to For more detail on student loan debt levels, view our interactive version of figure 4.
Not only are more students taking out student loans, but the size of the loans themselves has been growing rapidly. It is possible that increases in student debt resulted from constraints on parental finances due to the recession. Before the recent explosion of student debt, young people with student loan debt were actually more likely to take on other types of debt. To lenders, student loan debt has traditionally signaled that an individual had a college degree that increased earning potential.
This is why, until recently, year-olds with student loan debt were also more likely to have auto and home debt than those without student loan debt. That trend has changed in recent years. Now, year-olds with student loan debt are less likely than their student loan debt-free peers to have a mortgage or auto loan. Related to this situation has been the rise in student default rates. As shown in figure 5, overall default rates on student loans after three years is just over 11 percent, although the ranges by school type vary considerably.
Poor job prospects, as well as high levels of student debt, mean that a sizable portion of the Millennial generation has started out with distinct disadvantages. The Great Recession hit younger workers particularly hard.
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At its worst in October , when overall unemployment hit Although unemployment rates among Millennials have improved since then, they remain high today at 9. The unemployment rate for the and-older group was 3. The combination of high unemployment, high student loan debt, and the bursting of the housing bubble caused homeownership rates to fall even more sharply since for those under 35 years of age than among the population as a whole figure 6.
For example, the percentage of to year-olds living with their parents went up to States with the highest current proportions of Millennials aged 20—34 in are shown in figure 7. States with large military bases also have higher concentrations of Millennials.
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Many Millennials wish to relocate, and the time after graduating from college has traditionally been a common time for Americans to move. Since , Millennials have continued to move less than prior generations did at similar ages. In contrast, migration among senior citizens has almost recovered to pre-recession levels. There is no doubt that the Great Recession affected households headed by Millennials. For example, incomes of households headed by Millennials fell after , and as a result, the cohort has hesitated to take on large amounts of debt.
However, these trends are not limited to Millennial-led households. Once they form households, Millennials display economic behavior similar to other cohorts. We examine these economic trends in more detail below.
Comparing real income from SCF for households age 35 and under reveals that these households experienced the sharpest decline in median income between and 16 percent , but they did only slightly worse than households headed by to year-olds figure 8. When we focus in on the last three years, we find an interesting pattern.
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Income inequality for the under cohort fell during —, in contrast to the pattern among all US households. The decline in the share of mortgages among households in the under cohort is in line with a lower preference for debt among this cohort and some others 35—year-olds and 45—year-olds. Indeed, the Great Recession, with its detrimental impact on wealth and income, brought down both the ability and the inclination to take on debt among households headed by Millennials.
Between and , the share of households in the under cohort holding any form of debt fell by 6. During the same period, the median value of household debt also fell by the greatest amount among the under cohort 23 percent. Notably, with the economy in recovery since , debt levels have stabilized for some cohorts including the under cohort and risen for others. In addition to mortgages, vehicle loans fell after among households headed by Millennials. The proportion of households in the under cohort holding vehicle debt fell by Since , however, this proportion has increased somewhat among the under cohort, similar to the trend among some other cohorts.
Credit card debt has also decreased since among those under 35—but it would be wrong to say that this decline is a purely post trend. The share of households in the under cohort holding credit card debt has been declining steadily since Data on household finances from SCF add some nuance to these findings, showing that, while the percentage of those under 35 who own vehicles is indeed smaller than the comparable percentage among older cohorts, car ownership among the under cohort is by no means dead.
For example, although the share of households with a vehicle as an asset among the under cohort fell by six percentage points between and , this percentage has recovered since then figure For further information on vehicle ownership among different generations, view our interactive version of figure In the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, equities lost much of their popularity.
Nevertheless, the share of households in the under cohort that held stocks as an asset has remained fairly stable since figure This contrasts somewhat with the pattern for other age groups, among whom equity ownership has been more volatile. Also, between and , the value of stock holdings both direct and indirect as a percentage of total financial assets declined for all households.
But falling equity prices had as much to do with this as did changes in household stock holdings. Moreover, since , the value of stocks as a percentage of total financial assets has recovered among all households, including those headed by Millennials figure Most of the evidence for perceived higher Millennial turnover rates appears to be a misinterpretation of age effects. As was the case with Boomers and Gen Xers, young people today tend to switch jobs more often than older workers, particularly before they settle down and have kids.
Many labor market economists believe that there are two primary determinants of how often employees switch jobs: When the economy is growing, more jobs are available, and more workers of all ages are willing to take a chance and jump to another job. When the economy is shrinking, the opposite is true, and workers of all ages tend to hang on to the job they have. Figure 13 shows age-specific turnover rates for all US private-sector workers at three time points: Particularly instructive is the portion of the x-axis showing turnover rates for workers aged 19 to In , this age cohort was made up of Generation Xers.
In , this same age group was made up of Millennials. If Millennials truly had fundamentally different views on job-hopping, we would expect to see different turnover rates and different slopes for the lines representing these age cohorts. Instead, we see almost exactly the same slope for all three years, simply shifted upward when the economy was booming and downward as it contracted For more information on turnover rates, view our interactive version of figure