The kids are not all right: The bleak future of the millennial generation

Millennials are just not participating as much in the institutions of public life. They are more likely to remain chronically unemployed, less likely to invest money, and less likely to marry, now or ever. Despite a culture that has come to romanticize the entrepreneurial spirit of young Silicon Valley kids, millennials as a whole are less likely to start businesses. Many of these trends are related: It is harder to start a business if family bonds and family support are weaker. It is harder to invest if you lack even a day job.

A study by UBS, cited by Anderson, shows that the millennial is the exact opposite of a normal youthful investor. It makes intuitive sense that young people ought to be entrepreneurial, since they are unchastened by failure, and unburdened by immediate and growing families. The young investor should have confidence in the future, particularly the long term. Instead millennials are the most risk-averse investors, many of them having witnessed their parents go through agonies of 401(k) meltdowns and foreclosures at the same time. Their model of investment isn’t managing an aggressive account from their phone — it’s closer to burying cash in a refrigerator, then burying the refrigerator in their parent’s backyard. Indeed they are as worried about their parents’ portfolios as they are of their own…

Anderson catalogs other trends among millennial voters. They pray more than their Gen X counterparts, but have fewer commitments to religious institutions or organized religion generally. As you can probably guess, a more indebted, less-married generation is also one that is less likely to buy and maintain a home. And even if they find jobs and spouses, if their careers are going to be unstable and require several moves, why make a 30-year commitment to a bank note? It’s not as if companies routinely make 30-year investments in their employees anymore.

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