New Study Shows Why It's Tough to Be a Millennial

January 20, 2015

Whether you are living it firsthand or are living with one in your house, you know that in this world, it’s tough to be a millennial. People in the age group 18 through 34 are generally considered millennials. (If you don’t fall into that age group but feel like you can identify yourself as a millennial, you could take the Pew Research test and see how millennially-inclined you are.)

Whether you are in the age group or not, you will often hear random talk about how tough it is for this group. Now a recent report from the Census Bureau has confirmed the speculation. The report confirmed that millennials are poorer, unmarried, and more likely to be living with their parents than the previous generation. Less obvious facts include that millennials make up a smaller percentage of the total population, are more likely to identify themselves with a minority group, and are more likely foreign born compared to the same age group thirty years ago.

How did Colorado's stats compare?

Colorado has always had a young population compared to the rest of the nation. A generation ago, when Mork and Mindy were making Boulder popular and John Denver was introducing “Rocky Mountain High,” Colorado’s 18 to 34 year olds made up 34.2% of the population compared to 29.6 for the whole USA. According to the latest data, the millennial group now makes up only 24.4% of Colorado’s population and just 23.4% of the nation’s. Clearly the vitality and excitement of youth has waned as the proportion of young adults has declined by 10% from 1980 through 2013.


Heading back home 

The great recession following the 2008 housing bubble was tough on everyone -- but especially so for young adults. Many millennials were unable to leave their parent’s home and establish new households.

The Community Survey showed that the number of millennials living at home increased from 22.9% to 30.3% from 1980 to 2013. In Colorado that number increased from 14.5% to 22.2% There was also a sharp increase in the percentage of single young adults. The percentage of never married increased from 41.5% to 65.9% nationally and from 40.3% to 61.5% in Colorado. So chances are if you are a millennial, you are still living at home and have delayed any marriage plans.

Living in poverty

The economic strain on millennials has been epic. The percentage of young adults employed declined nationally from 69.3% to 65.0% while here in Colorado we fared slightly worse with the employed percentage dropping five points from 73.9% to 69.2% The average earnings dropped from $35,845 per year nationally to $33,883 in constant 1980 dollars. In Colorado, the inflation adjusted earnings declined from $36,886 to $35,703. The percentage of Millennials living below the national poverty line increased from 14.1% to 19.7% nationally and from 11.8% to 18.8% in Colorado. In total numbers in 2013, Colorado had 222,565 Millennials fall below the poverty line.


More interesting statistics

Racially we are becoming much more diverse both as a state and a nation. The number of respondents identifying themselves as white in Colorado declined from 82.8% to 65.3% and nationally from 78.4% to 57.2%. People identifying as minorities increased from 17.2% to 34.7% and 37.2% to 42.8% respectively.  Speaking a language other than English at home increased from 10.2% to 19.5% Perhaps as a result, immigration policies are much more important to this group than to previous generations. The number of foreign-born residents increased from 4.1% to 12.5% here in Colorado and from 6.3% to 15.4% nationally.

The data clearly shows that the changes over the past thirty years have made life different and considerably tougher for the millennials. The aging of the population has made them a smaller group, less likely to be employed, with less income, single, and twice as likely to be living with their parents. No wonder the millennials are often heard despairing their lot in life -- it’s tough!