If it’s true that no press is bad press, then Millennials are doing all right. Headlines about this age group are everywhere we turn — whether the message is that Millennials are lazy, important, entitled, an anchor on the economy, or something in between.
But while there’s room to disagree when it comes to sweeping generalizations about this up-and-coming generation, and many narratives to craft around state of this group, the numbers don’t lie.
Most of the kids aren’t all right.
The Great Recession and its years-long hangover have taken their toll on Millennials. And while Gen Y is doing its best to weather the storm, hard numbers paint a cold, hard reality for young adults.
Take a look:
- First, the most obvious: Millennials are saddled with heavy student debt loads. According to a PNC Financial Services survey, Gen Y members have an average debt load of $45,000. Meanwhile, total student debt across the ages spectrum has topped $1 trillion.
- The worst part, though, is that the expensive college investment isn’t always paying off. Even in 2011 — years after the recession’s depths — nearly half of employed college graduates worked in jobs that didn’t require a four-year degree. And 40% of grads from the nation’s top 100 colleges couldn’t find jobs in their chosen field.
- That’s shattered the traditional career path for Millennials, as Dan Schawbel — founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself – put it. “No longer does an internship or a degree automatically turn into a job without a lot of work experience, skills and luck,” he said. The numbers support that theory. In fact, it now takes the average Millennial worker 30 years to reach the median working wage, which currently sits at $42,000. That’s an increase from just 26 years back in 1980.
- Plus, those aged 25 to 34 are not only more likely to be unemployed than the next three older age ranges, they are also more likely to earn less than 150% of the poverty level and to need welfare. Young adults are nearly 10 percentage points more likely to be broke than the next closest age group, according to data compiled by The Atlantic.
- The result: Boomerang kids are real — and they’re not just members of Gen Y who are lazy, entitled or stingy. According to a recent PayScale study, only 5% of Baby Boomers and 11% of Generation X ever had to move back home after entering the workforce due to financial reasons. But more than 25% of Millennials have moved back because they couldn’t afford to live on their own, while 63% of Gen Y knows someone who had to move back home because of the economy.
- The recession’s toll on employment and — thanks to boomerang kids — homeownership also obliterated net wealth for the age group. Among households headed by adults younger than 35, net worth declined by 68% between 1984 and 2009 — from $11,500 to $3,700.
Alyssa Oursler is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.