Good news, fellow Millennials! It seems that Millennials have jobs now! Isn't that a relief? But there's also bad news: It seems everyone is still confused as to why we aren't buying houses and generally not participating in or trusting the topsy-turvy economic ideals that we watched implode with devastating consequences during our lifetime. It must be because we're lazy, entitled, and ungrateful, right? I mean, I as a Millennial can't think of any other reason not to buy a house.
But back to the good news for just a second. According to a new Pew survey, Millennials are back to pre-recession levels of unemployment, which is about 7.7 percent. Obviously this is excellent, and we should all be very pleased. I mean, it isn't solving all the problems our generation is facing by a long shot — but we should still celebrate the victories when they come.
But economists are still perplexed. The assumption for a long time now has been that the reason so few Millennials are buying houses and generally behaving like the generations that came before us once we finish school is that the economy hasn't allowed us to; thus it should follow that once things looked up, we would get back on track. However, that doesn't seem to be happening. It seems that Millennials are still not owning homes or getting married at the same rate as previous generations, even though our financial situation is no longer so dire. And that of course, has everyone stumped.
As a bright young Millennial, I might be able to offer a few theories to explain this apparently very confusing problem (which, to be honest, I don't find confusing at all). First, just because Millennials have jobs now, that doesn't mean they are jobs that pay very well. Factoring in inflation, wages have been stagnant for a long time, and since the recession, high-paying jobs have been getting more and more scarce. And since more and more jobs are part of the "freelance economy" these days, jobs are often times more unstable than in years past, and come with fewer benefits.
Related to this, Millennials have, as a whole, an astronomical level of student loan debt to reckon with — which means that they probably aren't looking to saddle themselves with a mortgage anytime soon, especially not if you're underpaid and your job is unstable. That's just a recipe for disaster. Millennials may be many things, but we are sure as hell not stupid.
We also came of age around the time of an enormous financial crisis. We watched people whose personal wealth was tied up in their houses lose everything. We watched the economy everyone thought was rock solid crumble into nothing. And then we watched as no one made much of an effort to make sure it didn't happen again. Financial regulations weren't significantly strengthened. Most people responsible for the catastrophe weren't prosecuted. So why exactly should I trust that this whole thing won't happen again?
Like I said, we aren't stupid. And we don't see the world the same way as previous generations, which is just fine — because the world that previous generations handed us is very different than the one they entered into at our age. And we're making our personal financial decisions accordingly. That doesn't make us less adult, and it doesn't make us incomprehensible.
So maybe people could stop acting like we're some sign of the apocalypse because we don't buy into outdated ideas about how to live our lives, aspecially since it's actually the generations before us who basically caused the apocalypse in this context. We're just doing our best to continue our lives anyway.
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