New research shows those born in the 1980s might have been hurt the worst by the recession. I believe this helps explain the decisions millennials have made with their lives.
A recent story in The Wall Street Journal gave me pause. The newspaper reported that those born in the 1980s have wealth levels 34% below where they would had the Great Recession not happened. That is absolutely mind-boggling.
I was born in 1985, smack dab in the middle of the decade. I graduated from college and entered the job market—in journalism, no less—in the spring of 2008, just in time to watch things start crashing down around me. The housing crisis, banking crisis, job crisis—the overall recession itself—had a profound impact on me, influencing how I would act and think, just like everyone else in my generation.
I hear a lot of things about the millennial generation, some good and some bad. I often hear about how entitled we all are. I take that with some grain of salt. Every generation feels entitled to different things at different points in their lives based on what they’ve lived through.
For one thing, I know many members of my generation felt entitled to a college education. We had been told by older generations that getting a college degree was the most important thing in order to have good, well-paying job. We listened. According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, young employees were more likely than ever to have a college degree. Forty percent of employed 25- to 29-year-olds had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2016, compared to 32% of Gen Xers in 2000, 26% of baby boomers in 1985 and 16% of the silent generation in 1964.
Like I said, I graduated in the spring of 2008 with my degree from Kent State University. It was by no means the most expensive school around, not even among state schools, but I had to take out student loans along with the scholarships and grants I earned. I’m hitting my 10-year anniversary this month, and I still have one loan to go. I consider myself lucky compared to the loans others in my generation had to take out based on the college they attended and career path they chose.
Choice is the key word there. We did choose these things. We chose to go to college, but that was at the urging of our parents and teachers who said we needed to in order to land a good job, to set ourselves apart. However, looking back to the attendance level I mentioned before, it’s hard to stand out from so many others who have similar levels of knowledge and experience. Let’s call that a bit of oversupply.
And again, this generation started in the job market right around the start of the recession. There weren’t that many jobs to be had, and the ones that existed weren’t 100% guaranteed to be there the next month, the next week or even the next day. Let’s call that a demand problem.
This piece isn’t to cast blame on others—though, to be fair, as my generation was only just entering the workforce, you can’t really blame us at all for the recession, but we are changing the workforce now.
My point is the recession hurt so many people of every generation. My generation lost something before we could have it. The millennials I went to school with and have come to know through work are some of the hardest-working people I know. We might approach things a bit differently than older generations are used to, but that’s a product of our upbringing and our life experiences.
We didn’t live through a world war, Camelot, the counterculture, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate or any other number of life-altering events and changes. We really only caught the tail end of the Cold War.
But we grew up during the Bill Clinton scandal, Columbine, the mainstream adoption of the internet, 9/11 and the war on terror, the recession, etc. We have all lived through things that have affected us, for good or bad.
I hear time and time again that the hotel industry is trying to understand the millennial generation and figuring out what it wants and why it wants what it does. The industry has marketing research on how to better serve millennials, and that’s great. My advice would be, if you haven’t already done so, to talk to us on an individual level. The research can tell you a lot, but it can also create stereotypes that hold both truths and misunderstandings. Millennials are your employees and your guests, so there are plenty of us available. We have the supply, so come up with the demand.
What are your thoughts? You can leave a comment below or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @HNN_Bryan.
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