The Real Reason Millennials Are Struggling: An Infographic

Source: Bachelors Degree Center


“Kids These Days”

It’s a refrain as old as time, but is it based in reality?


Baby Boomers (b. ~1946-1964)*

December 1979, Washington Post article: “A Sleeping Lion: The ‘Me Generation’ of Nonvoters”

  • “This rising generation feels ‘entitled’ to things”

  • “Their focus is themselves”

  • “They spend more readily for ‘me products’”

Generation X (b. ~1965-1980)*

July 1990, Time article: “Twentysomething”

  • “[T]heir attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial”

  • “[T]he latest crop of adults wants to postpone growing up”

  • “…considered overly sensitive at best and lazy at worst”

And yet millennials (b. ~1981-1996)* have received even more negative attention than past generations. Why?


The Most Visible Generation

  • Social media: Millennials are the first generation to post their every thought and antic online for all to criticize

  • Online journalism: New analyses of millennials’ faults and shortcomings are published every day

  • The Most Self-Loathing Generation? Millennials are almost 2X less likely than Gen Xers and 3X less likely than Boomers to describe their own generation as responsible

While millennials face disdain from their elders, they experience real-world struggles their parents and grandparents never imagined


Student Debt

In the past 15 years, student debt owed by American households tripled

  • 2001: $340 billion

  • 2016: $1.3 trillion

Young Americans with student debt now have negative net wealth. Median net wealth of 25- to 34-year-olds with associates degree or higher and student debt

  • 1989: $89,143

  • 2013: $6,798

  • 2016: -$1,900

The Blame Game: “That’s because they waste money on overeducation.”

Millennials live in a world where a college degree is practically a requirement for employment

Unemployment rate for Americans 25 and older by educational attainment, July 2018

  • High school diploma: 4%

  • Associate’s degree: 3.2%

  • Bachelor’s degree: 2.2%

Education Saturation

Graduates under age 27 working jobs that don’t require a college degree

  • 2000: 38%

  • 2015: 44.6%

The Blame Game: “That’s because they got useless degrees.”

55% of students at less selective colleges pursue career-focused degrees compared to 21% of students at elite colleges, where humanities and liberal arts degrees are more popular

  • Today’s grads focus on business and healthcare

Top 5 majors 1970/71 school year*

  • Education

  • Social Sciences / History

  • Business

  • English Language and Literature

  • Engineering

Top 5 majors 2015/16 school year*

  • Business

  • Health professions and related programs (12%)

  • Social sciences/history (8.4%)

  • Psychology (6.1%)

  • Biological and biomedical sciences (6%)

Changing Work Realities

  • 43% of millennials expect to leave their current job within 2 years

  • Low loyalty levels among those wishing to leave

  • 75% My company doesn’t care about innovation

  • 62% My company only cares about profit

  • 47% My company doesn’t care about societal improvement

The Blame Game: “That’s because they’re lazy.”

Millennials are actually the generation most likely to forfeit vacation time

  • 4 in 10 (43%) “work martyrs” are millennials

Reasons millennials don’t take vacation time

  • 23% Fear what their boss might think
  • 27% Don’t want to be seen as replaceable

Employment trends across the U.S. can’t be blamed on just one group

As of July 2018, for the first time there are more jobs available than people to fill them

  • Unemployed people: 6.35 million
  • Job openings: 6.7 million

Construction workers

  • 30% decline in young workers from 2005-2016

Truck drivers

  • Expected to reach 100,000-worker labor shortage by 2021

Millennials don’t job-hop any more than Gen Xers did at their age

% of 18- to 35-year-olds by length of employment at current job 13 months or more

  • Millennials in 2016: 63%
  • Gen Xers in 2000: 60%

5 years or more

  • Millennials in 2016: 22%
  • Gen Xers in 2000: 22%

High Housing Costs
In 2016, 15% of 25- to 35-year-old Americans lived in their parents’ home
% of other generations living at home at the same age
Gen Xers in 2000: 10%
Late boomers in 1990: 11%
Early boomers in 1981: 8%

The Blame Game: “That’s because they’re irresponsible.”

In the U.S., median asking rent has almost doubled since 2000

  • 2000: $500
  • 2018: $954

Staying home might just be a more financially responsible decision
Amount young people can save per year in the most expensive U.S. cities by living at home*

  • San Francisco: $31,390
  • New York: $28,725
  • San Jose: $19,547
  • Los Angeles: $18,309
  • Chicago: $17,329

New Timeline for Starting a Family

Since 1990, fertility rate in the U.S. has dropped over 13%

  • Kids come later: More women are having careers and delaying marriage

Median age to have a first child in the U.S.

  • 1994: 23 years old
  • 2016: 26 years old

The Blame Game: “That’s because they’re destroying family values.”

In 2015, it cost an estimated average $233,610 to raise a child from birth through age 17*

Top reasons young adults don’t have as many children as they want

  • Child care too expensive: 64%
  • Want more time with the children I have: 54%
  • Worried about the economy: 49%
  • Can’t afford more children: 44%

In spite of everything, Millennials believe they have what it takes to succeed in a world of challenges and criticism

  • Over the next 5 years, almost 80% of young people ages 23-35 from around the world expect their lives to get better