November 18, 2019

How "Millennial" Came to Mean "Wealthy"

“It’s the end of millennials as we know them. No, not the 73 million younger adults born between 1981 and 1996; they’re fine. But the death knell is tolling for the way we tend to overuse, and misuse, the literal term millennials. The latest peal in this requiem? A piece by Atlantic staff writer Derek Thompson suggesting that, given WeWork and Uber’s slow-rolling implosions, “the millennial urban lifestyle is about to get more expensive.” What exactly is the “millennial urban lifestyle”? According to Thompson, it’s waking up on a Casper mattress, working out with a Peloton before breakfast, Ubering to a desk at a WeWork, ordering DoorDash for lunch, taking a Lyft home, and then getting dinner through Postmates.

Basically, before the first meal of the day, this hypothetical urban millennial is already in the hole for almost $4,000, thanks to their $1,100 mattress, $500/month coworking space, and $2,000 exercise bike. Of course, there are payment plans as low as $58 a month for the Peloton, which might be what enables them to still spend on ride-sharing door to door and ordering out all their meals.

Thompson isn’t making an argument about the fiscal responsibility of millennials; he’s just using them as the stand-in customer. The main thrust of his piece—that all these venture capital–backed startups, previously capable of subsidizing the lives of their customers, will soon have to jack up their prices in response to the impending reckoning of investors looking to finally turn a profit—seems correct, and is certainly worth discussing. It just also takes for granted that the average urban millennial is willing to spend $100 a month on a Blue Apron subscription that only provides three meals a week.”

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