Distinct periods of economic hardship can distinctly shape generational culture.
Just look at the survivors of the Great Depression; the litany of art, literature, policy, and ideology that was shaped and often created by the societal despair people experienced.
I remember hearing stories about my great grandmother who when at restaurants would fill her purse with all the salvageable food possible; in one distinct case, she packed it with shrimp from an Asian buffet…
While admittedly comical and certainly the trappings of funny tales of yesteryear, this type of behavior epitomizes how living under economic hardships can create deep scars.
Even my grandparents, born into the cautiously hopeful poverty of the recovery era in the inner cities constantly exhibit an inherent frugality that’s both incredibly admirable… as well as frustrating. They can be found agonizing over the price of each item at lunch as if the 50 cents they believe to be cheated of could still buy more than half a soda.
While the ‘great recession’ – as the economic collapse that was ignited by the 2008 volatile mortgage crisis has come to be known – was certainly far from as brutally demoralizing as the depression of the 30s it was, all the same, a markedly awful economy affecting a marked amount of people for a notable duration.
Yes, Millennials certainly avoided the brutality of dust-bowl like conditions of death and despair thanks in large part from programs formed out of the lessons our ancestors learned, but all the same the great recession scarred a generation regarding sheer economic well-being. In other words, we’re empirically poor compared to our predecessors and we’re unfortunately used to it being that way.
See, for years now, as Millennials have entered the golden years of economic participation and consumption that is the 20s-30s, entire industries have been falling into complete shambles. From casual dining to homeowning, ‘breastaurants to beer,’ even seemingly obscure areas like mayonnaise and napkins, millennial spending habits (or rather lack thereof) have been utterly gashing companies and even entire economic sectors apart as they struggle to cope with steadily decreasing consumption.
With companies from Gillette to Hooters bleeding to death from their new millennial economic overlord’s lack of patronage, the US Federal Reserve – hypothetical stewards of the economy – have been on the case to figure out why this is the case and where the money is going.
The results? There actually just isn’t any as the Fed has reported from a study, it conducted that millennials are in fact simply economically less well off than the generations that came before us, and we spend like it. BusinessInsider explains,
“Millennials have been blamed for killing plenty of industries. But according to a Federal Reserve study, it’s not their fault. Millennials, long presumed to have less interest in the nonstop consumption of goods that underpins the American economy, might not be that different after all, a new study from the Federal Reserve says,” Bloomberg’s Luke Kawa and Jeremy Herron reported on Thursday.
They added: “Their spending habits are a lot like the generations that came before them, they just have less money at this point in their lives, the Fed study found. The group born between 1981 and 1997 has fallen behind because many of them came of age during the financial crisis.”
You Made Us!
The simple reality is millennials are the first generation to be left empirically worse off than their parents. Saddled with 23 Trillion dollars in public debt our parents ‘borrowed’ from us we’re also just screwed when it comes to wealth. BusinessInsider continues,
“Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth,” the study said, adding, “Conditional on their age and other factors, millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.”
Average real labor earnings for male household heads working full time were 18% and 27% higher for Gen Xers and baby boomers when they were young compared with millennials, the study found.”
When it comes down to it, millennials are pretty much the same ‘red-blooded’ Americans as their forefathers and the proof is in sharing the same economic preferences. The difference maker for us that has us throttling Buffalo Wild Wings and Auto manufacturers is that we walked into a crippled economy that’s left us scarred and unable to continue the inexorable consumption our parents and grandparents engaged in; not because we don’t want to but because we can’t.