January 20, 2019

Millennials Kill Industries Because They're Broke

“Millennials are a murderous bunch, a generation of homicidal maniacs.

At least that’s the impression you get from reading news stories about my generation.

According to the headlines, we’ve wreaked carnage across the economy with our fickle, selfish tastes. So far we have “killed” or are “killing” dinner dates, hotels, credit cards, grocery stores, cinemas, Home Depot, diamonds, banks, gyms, department stores, vacations, cruises and casinos, the car industry, homeownership and even Buffalo Wild Wings.

The explanations for our butchery are manifold, and sometimes contradictory.

Sometimes we’re a bunch of hipster brats who don’t appreciate the tried-and-true cultural milestones of middle-class adulthood. We spend all our time snapping selfies in our parents’ basements. That means we don’t need cars to get around, nor do we want them. To today’s youngsters, “driving simply doesn’t seem as cool as it once was,” one Fortune magazine article proclaimed.

Or maybe we are venturing out, but when we do, we make more frivolous purchasing decisions than did our forebears. We fritter away our paychecks on avocado toast instead of saving to buy a home.

Or, alternatively, we’re socially conscious, admirably deaf to the siren song of commercialism. Unlike those Material Girls (and Boys) of the 1980s, we think ownership is soul-sucking and pointless. Sharing is caring, bro.

Well, a research paper published last month by economists at the Federal Reserve comes to a different conclusion: Millennials aren’t choosing to break economic traditions. Instead, we’re just broke.

The report, “Are Millennials Different?,” looks at financial and cultural milestones for the cohort born between 1981 and 1997, and how it compares with earlier generations at a similar life stage. Contrary to stereotypes that kids these days have sharply different tastes and aspirations than did kids of yore, the report concludes that “millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.””

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