There are plenty of discussions about where and how millennials will choose to live (cities vs the suburbs) what types of jobs they will want (flexible vs permanent.) Just this week Business Insider published a 5 part piece on it. The discussion rages on and on.
Consider a couple of facts when discussing projections like these: The oldest millennials are 37, and the youngest are only 17. This is a young group. The job market has been weak, there have been two major economic downturns since the eldest of this group entered the workforce, and baby boomers aren’t retiring. So when you combine youth and a challenging job market are we surprised that their lifestyles reflect these realities?
Allow me to propose an alternate theory. Could the challenges that the suburbs are currently experiencing be due to the small size of Generation X? As a relatively small cohort sandwiched between boomers and millennials with 75 million people each, Generation X accounts for a paltry 66 million people. There aren’t enough people in their prime earning years right now to make up for the voracious consumption and economic driver that was the boomers. There is no way Generation X can generate enough economic activity to maintain the pace of consumption that the boomers set between 1980 and today.
Will millennials have different habits than previous generations? Probably. They are clearly looking for experiences as much as they are looking for possessions. But the sheer number of millennials that are still a decade or more away from their prime earning years makes predictions about their habits almost impossible.
Millennials will become major economic drivers in the economy over the next decade. Research shows that they want job stability, they aren’t mobile, and they want to have children. These all sound like things that the suburbs are well suited to providing.
So let’s not write the obituary for the suburbs just yet.