By most account, America’s young consumers are stereotyped as a selfish, impulsive, highly indulged bunch. More so than other age groups, Gen Y has been shown to splurge on restaurant meals they probably can’t afford, pamper themselves with impulse buys, and partake in “self-gifting” during the holidays. They’ve also been criticized in the workplace for focusing on their own needs rather than on-the-job performance.
But the idea that all millennials act the same way, or that millennials as a group are entirely self-centered and unwilling to sacrifice is just plain wrong. Here’s some proof:
They’re eating out less. Normally, young people can be counted on to frequently eat out at restaurants. In 2007, for instance, Americans in the 18 to 34-year-old demographic averaged 252 dining experiences outside the house annually. According to a new study from the NPD Group, the current average for that same age group is 202—or about one fewer meal out per week. Older consumers have always tended to spend more per restaurant outing than younger diners, but young people have traditionally gone out to eat more often. Not anymore. Adults in the 35 to 49 age group, as well as those in the 50+ demo are eating out more frequently than millennials.
Some insight courtesy of USA Today:
“This is a shift of biblical proportions for the restaurant industry,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at researcher NPD Group, which surveyed 2,400 adults 18 to 34 nationwide. “I’ve done this for 35 years, and we could always count on this age group as the biggest restaurant users. But not the last five years.”
They’re living with their parents. Granted, while many millennials don’t see this as much of a sacrifice—meals, laundry, and a roof over your head for free (and no curfew)—but surely many Americans in their 20s and 30s still living with their parents would prefer to be on their own. What’s stopping them from doing so is high unemployment and a sensible fear about living beyond one’s means and digging oneself into (even more) debt. More than 20% of Americans ages 25 to 34 are saving on rent or mortgage payments by living in multigenerational homes, and that percentage, on the rise since the 1980s, spiked starting in 2007.
They’re responsible about homeownership. Members of Gen Y aren’t bunking with mom and dad because they lack ambition or just don’t care about owning homes. While a large portion of millennials do eschew permanence and prefer the renting and sharing of everything from homes to cars to electronics, a Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate survey reveals that 75% of young Americans agree that “owning a home is a key indicator of success.” The study also shows that young people may not be as entitled as they’ve been portrayed, that they’re knowledgeable about the housing market, and that don’t want to rush into a bad decision by buying a home before they’re ready. Among the study’s findings:
• They are not the “all about me” generation as 71% surveyed believe that home ownership should be earned, not something they are automatically entitled to.
• 69% believe that the recent housing downturn has made them more knowledgeable about homeownership than their parents were at their age
• Gen X and Y want to make sure they are ready to own. 69% believe someone is ready when they can afford to buy while also maintaining their lifestyle. For 61% of respondents, the “readiness indicator” is when they’ve landed a secure job.
“This group of young adults is very much in tune with owning real estate,” Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens real estate brand, explained to the Chicago Tribune. “Their values are similar to their parents’. They don’t have any feeling of entitlement. They’re hard-working, and homeownership is important to them.”
And yet, unlike the masses who scooped ever-more expensive homes during the mid’00s real estate bubble, young people today are sensibly wary of buying property before they’re ready.
They’re accepting whatever jobs they can get. Data shows that the majority of millennials are unemployed or underemployed in the U.S. Because professional jobs related to their college majors are difficult if not impossible for young grads to find, many are turning to jobs that don’t require a college degree—in retail sales, for instance. Sure, these may be jobs that a teenager could do, but many millennials with college degrees (and with college loan debt) are accepting work wherever they can find it, deeming that better than having no income whatsoever.
They’re exceptionally charitable. Members of Gen Y are very likely to give their time, their money, or both. According to the Millennial Impact Report, last year 63% of Americans ages 20 to 35 volunteered for a nonprofit, 75% donated money to a nonprofit, and 70% said they helped raise funds on the behalf of a nonprofit.