Again with the millennials.
Forgive me for raising another story on the topic of this generation of new thinkers and doers. But a recent story in the New York Times Magazine—and some pushback it’s received—made me think there’s quite a bit more to say on the topic.
In the Times story, writer Adam Davidson (or the copyeditor) poked the millennial bear with a stick, starting with his headline: “It’s Official; The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave.”
OK, so a little fun is OK, right? Here’s some content not far from the top of his piece:
“One in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. And 60 percent of all young adults receive financial support from them. That’s a significant increase from a generation ago, when only one in 10 young adults moved back home and few received financial support. The common explanation for the shift is that people born in the late 1980s and early 1990s came of age amid several unfortunate and overlapping economic trends. Those who graduated college as the housing market and financial system were imploding faced the highest debt burden of any graduating class in history. Nearly 45 percent of 25-year-olds, for instance, have outstanding loans, with an average debt above $20,000. (Kasinecz still has about $60,000 to go.) And more than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, meaning they make substandard wages in jobs that don’t require a college degree. According to Lisa B. Kahn, an economist at Yale University, the negative impact of graduating into a recession never fully disappears. Even 20 years later, the people who graduated into the recession of the early ’80s were making substantially less money than people lucky enough to have graduated a few years afterward, when the economy was booming. Some may hope that the boomerang generation represents an unfortunate but temporary blip … .
Intrigued? Offended? Read the whole thing here.
The article’s tone—and its pronouncements—may be why (at last count) the story had garnered 1,600+ comments. That’s one thousand six hundred. Millennials may be underemployed, but that means they’ll read all the way to the end of a 2,196-word article, and then take the time to vent some spleen.
I’ll get to those comments in a moment. For now, it’s worth noting that they ranged from a startlingly deep derision toward an entire class of adults, to deep anger toward the author, his approach and his tone.
Whatever you do, be sure to view the slideshow of photos by photographer Damon Casarez. He is clearly a talented shooter. But was there ever a more depressing assemblage of life stories captured on film (or digitally)?
Life lesson and note to self: If a features reporter ever wants to write on my inability to land a job and launch a career, just say no when the photographer offers to shoot my portrait amidst my dirty-laundry-strewn bed, or among my life’s detritus that now hoarder-clogs my parents’ living room.
Stage tragic images, much?
Want to know how irked millennials can get about the stereotypical coverage? Just compare the Time Magazine cover that inflamed many folks … with just one of the parodies launched by web-savvy millennials (and don’t miss the parody’s eyebrow-headlines):
(Um, Time Magazine, these “kids” may be a lot of things, but one of their greatest strengths is being scary-talented enough to make digital fun of your aged butt. Just saying.)
So you’re eager (I know) for a legal angle, and here it is.
Start reading a great blog called “The Law School Tuition Bubble.” That’s where Matt Leichter, an attorney admitted in Wisconsin and New York, holds forth on topics related to the legal profession. (More about him here.)
As you might guess, he is not greatly impressed by the NYT piece. He is an adept reader (and critiquer), so you should read his entire response here.
But I was struck by one of his concluding lines, which indicts not just this article but much of the reportage on the millennial or any “younger” generation:
“The only question I’m left with is, ‘Has reporting on young adults ever not been infantilizing and uninformative?’”
What do you think? Do commentators and reporters do a disservice to a generation that, first, must adjust to an economy nearly bankrupted by a generation not their own, and second, that now must suffer the additional indignity of being labeled lazy, or worse?
Finally, I promised to share a few of the NYT’s article’s comments. Here they are:
“When college costs three times what it did in 1970, adjusted for inflation (and that’s public and private school), and minimum wage is less than half what it was in 1970, adjusted for inflation, I find the term ‘Boomerang kids’ insulting. These aren’t kids, they are young adults facing the worst recession since the 1930s and living through the modern-day Dust Bowl. Nobody lectured people in the era of the Grapes of Wrath about how they should just ‘grow up.’”
“I’m somewhat annoyed by the Times’ (and others’) insinuation that if a young person lives at home after college, he or she has somehow failed at becoming a real and responsible adult. When you have heavy student loans and work at an entry-level position, it may actually be a mark of financial responsibility to live with your parents for at least a year or two while you work and build up your savings. I would love to see more stories about young people in their 20s and 30s living at home without the underlying tone of judgment that just because these people live with their parents, they have somehow failed at becoming adults.”
“The comments about how this is normal in other (low and middle income) countries, and how it’s probably the fault of individual young people who didn’t major in science are equal parts infuriating and hilarious. Someone hasn’t looked for science jobs lately! Memo to the millennials: Older generations don’t care and they’re not going to try to help. These comments are proof of that. So, either get involved in politics or resign yourself to a substantially lower standard of living than your parents had. Or both.”Follow @azatty