Millennials. That word is enough to send shivers down the spine of anyone over the age of 30 who has managed a gaggle of these new generational workers.
They’ve earned a reputation for being far more interested in what the world can do for them than the other way around. Ask a group of boomers or Gen Xers to describe millennials, and you’re likely to hear words like lazy, coddled, freeloading and spoiled. Whether that’s fair or not — and like ’em or not — the reality is they’re now the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, and as they age they’re expected to increase their influence over the direction of the country.
A new study out today indicates this maligned generation is beginning to act like grown ups.
The study, from the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C., says that advancing age is bringing perspective (if not wisdom) to most millennials. The study polled D.C. millennials in an attempt to learn the things that are most important to them when looking for a place to live, but the results give us a national snapshot of what this well studied, but perhaps poorly understood, group is thinking.
Maybe it’s just time. The first millennials were born in 1981, after all, and the last around the turn of the century, so the earliest born millennials are now well into their 30s and 40 is coming at them fast.
Just a few years ago millennials were known for what they weren’t doing: namely, getting married, starting families, and buying homes and cars. But now, by an overwhelming margin, 38 percent of millennials say good jobs are their primary motivation when looking for a place to live. Coming in second is affordability; 27 percent say the cost is the second factor in their decision on where to put down roots.
This is in stark contrast to the stereotypical millennials who demand a long list of office perks, from free coffee to workout rooms, as a vital part of their willingness to join the workforce.
Here’s another piece of news about our changing millennials: They seem to be falling in love with their cars. While still less likely than any other generation to have a driver’s license — and less likely to use the ones they have — in the D.C. area, at least, having a family means needing wheels. Sixty percent of millennials are driving to work even when they live close to a metro or bus stop. To make matters worse, that 60 percent is also driving alone.
What gives? Some millennials sound positively old-fashioned when asked about life and the things that keep them up at night. “It’s stressful to think of how to raise a family,” says one.
“The high cost of housing is the biggest challenge,” says another.
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But don’t go thinking they’re getting stodgy. Some statistics from the study reinforce common perceptions. For instance, only 16 percent of millennials are living on their own. Among the youngest — those who are 20 to 24 years old — 60 percent are living with a sibling or at home.
Millennials certainly seem to be coddled (and Lifezette has reported on the troubles of the millennial generation before). But when this generation actually gets out into the world, what looks like delayed adolescence to many could be a thoughtfulness and caution about tackling the very real pressures of work, and family, and corporate life. The statistics tell us that once they’re in the mix, these hipsters are worried about the same problems that kept their moms and dads up at night.