Are Millennials Different, or Just Delaying Homeownership?
By Lisa Sturtevant
Big, diverse, and a little bit different, the Millennial generation is often cast as the solution to—or the cause of—many of America’s housing challenges. But Millennials probably aren’t as principal to understanding U.S. housing market conditions as the sheer amount of media coverage may lead us to believe.
The opportunities available to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and the decisions they make about where to live, are also key rungs in the housing market ladder. But there is a mystique about Millennials in the midst of sluggish economic conditions which, among other less fanciful reasons, makes them an important part of the conversation about the housing market recovery and the role of housing in people’s lives. But can we separate Millennial fact from myth? And are markets and policy set up to adequately meet Millennials’ housing needs?
Who Are Millennials?
There is no universal definition of the Millennial population, though researchers and commentators often refer to the population of people in their late teens to early 30s as Millennials. There are about 75 million people age 18 to 34, making up nearly a quarter of the overall population. Millennials comprise a larger group of the population than Baby Boomers and they are more racially and ethnically diverse than older age cohorts.
The population of young adults has been graduating from school and entering the labor force (or not) in the sluggish recovery of the worst recession in 75 years. They face limited employment options, stagnant wages and high student debt.
They are also entering the stage of life when people typically start families and think about buying a home. But, they aren’t.
What Do We Hear About Millennials?
There are a lot of stereotypes about Millennials. They live with their parents, either in the basement or in their old bedrooms. Or they have set up house in trendy microunits, tiny apartments with bare-bones kitchens and shared sleeping and living space. They don’t want a car and they have adopted a “sharing economy” for everything from transportation to music to technology. And they are shunning the traditional paths of marriage, children and homeownership.
Millennials are different, and they have different preferences for housing which should change the way communities plan for housing.
But are these stereotypes true?
What is Likely Truer About Millennials?
Rather than radically different preferences, it is economic conditions that...