Millennials and Economic Difficulties

Millennials and Economic DifficultiesAbstract

Millennials are a diverse and energetic young generation coming to age within a whirlwind of economic failures, hardships, and disappoints.  Young adults, ages 18 to 35, are up against depressing and trying economic times unlike others before them.  Millennials are facing record breaking numbers of unemployment, poverty, lack of ability to live on their own, low wages, and a job market that does not provide very many opportunities even for a generation as educated as the Millennials.  With the ever increasing burden of student debt upon their backs, Millennials are attempting to carve out their place in the American Dream, but the chains of debt and the pressures and stresses of higher education are massive weights breaking them through stress, mental illness, emotional problems, and lack of preparedness.  With resilience, patience, cooperation, and dedication, the Millennials can use their minds, resources, and creative collective force to help establish themselves as one of America’s greatest generations, who rose above that which held them down.

Keywords: millennials, economic hardship, poverty, school debt, loans, mental health.

Millennials and Economic Difficulties


Generations rise and fall.  Some do many great things and achieve incredible success.  Some generations do not leave a good legacy.  Many factors can go into what makes a generation successful; factors not always within the control of those within the generation.  In order for a generation to thrive, compete, contribute, succeed, and rise to leadership, it does need to have a sound economic foundation that provides stability, jobs, opportunities, creativity, incentive, and the means to provide for Maslow’s lower hierarchical needs with food, shelter, and safety.  One generation in America right now is up against a torrent of economic issues!  That generation is the Millennial generation.  The Millennials are facing economic issues and uncertain times far greater in severity than the same age group did in 1980, 1990, and 2000 (Sanburn 2014). Millennials are coming of age post Great Recession which results in a lot of economic hardship, uncertainty, and instability.

Overview of the Generation (Who Are the Millennials?)               

Who are the Millennials?  A lot is consistently heard about this particular generation of Americans, but to discuss the issues that the generation faces Jill McLeigh writes of the Millennials, “Millennials—also known as Generation Y, iGen, Generation We, Generation Me, unGen, and Generation Next—are individuals born in the 1980s and 1990s (the exact time frame is still debated). A birth cohort consisting of more than 82 million people, Millennials now outnumber the Boomer generation. They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the United States has seen. They are socially liberal and tend to vote Democratic. They are technology savvy. Compared to Gen Xers, Boomers, and Silents when they were in their 20s and early 30s, more Millennials are college-educated, single, and childless.”  The Millennials are certainly diverse, socially aware, technologically connected, and community-minded.  Millennials are incredibly educated as well.  In 1980, the same age group had sixteen percent of their peers with a Bachelors or higher, but the Millennials have went up to twenty-two percent (Sanburn 2014).

The Issues

However, this generation faces issues economically unlike any other generations before, especially in regards to the student debt crisis.  Additionally, the Millennials face a downward spiral in regards to job opportunities and as of 2012, research shows that the unemployment rate is slightly below fifty percent for Millennials  and estimated at 5.4 million of those unemployed are between ages 18 and 34 (Cramer 2014).

Josh Sanburn outlines four ways that Millennials are worse off than their parents:

  1. “Median Income: Millennials earned roughly $33,883 a year on average between 2009 and 2013 compared with $35,845 in 1980 and $37,355 in 2000 (all in 2013 inflation adjusted dollars).
  2. Leaving Home: More than 30% of millennials live with at least one parent compared to about 23% in 1980, largely because they can’t get a job.
  3. Employment: Only about 65% of millennials are currently working compared with more than 70% in 1990.
  4. Poverty: Almost 20% live in poverty compared with about 14% in 1980 (Sanburn 2014).”

The gap between Millennials and older generations is ever widening when it comes to finances and wealth, and additionally the jobs that young adults can find have great drops for weekly earnings by 23% (McLeigh 2014).  Additionally, Millennials are not buying homes like other generations, are living with their parents, and endure poverty and unemployment than their parents’ and grandparents did at the same age (McLeigh 2014).

To make matters worse, more often than not, Millennials tend to think going to school will resolve the financial and economic difficulties they face.  In 2012, college enrollment was up to 41% versus 25% in 1980 (McLeigh 2014).  Not working and raking up the biggest burden for the generation, that being school loan debt, in some ways creates a even messier financial situation.  The hope is for a long-term payoff, but college is increasingly more expensive and hard to afford outside of doing loans.  Jill McLeigh writes, “The cost of attending college has risen dramatically, and tuition rates have vastly outpaced the rate of inflation in the United States. In 2014, over 70% of bachelor degree recipients graduated with student loan debt, with an average debt of over $30,000. Student debt, which exceeded $1 trillion in 2013, has surpassed credit card and auto loan debt to become the second biggest source of personal debt in the United States, trailing only mortgages (McLeigh 2014).”

Treatments and Resolutions

Mental health treatment is key in treating stress, anxiety, depression, and eating and sleeping disorders, which are all symptoms young adults, are facing tackling undergraduate and graduate programs (McLeigh, 2014).  However, these arise from vastly complex and more serious roots, which is where the action needs to occur.  Attack the following roots of these symptoms then mental health professionals, especially high school and college counselors, can reduce the symptoms and provide for a more stable and well lived life: academic pressure, financial burden, accessibility, female-to-male ratio, technology, and lifestyle.

Unfortunately, before even making it to college, young adults come from a ill prepared place.  In American schooling, there is too much emphasis placed upon doing well on the SAT, graduating with a high grade point average, and building resumes.  (McLeigh 2014).  While these tents of academic success are well and good, there must be preparation of high school students and other young adults to attend college, which would include preparing them with career counseling, what to expect in college, and what college means for future employment and career opportunities.

A great resolution to a lot of these difficulties is to decrease the cost of obtaining a college education.  Costs for college are twice the rate of average inflation, which lays another burden on the backs of people plagued by emotional and financial issues already (McLeigh 2014).  States are increasingly forced by necessity to cut funding for college costs, which in turn drives the tuition rates only higher.

Colleges attract a very diverse cohort with Millennials who comes from low social-economic situations, different races, and different struggles mentally and physical challenges (McLeigh 2014).  Colleges need to organize and purposely create programs and opportunities for students while in college to get the help they need from “walk-in health centers, individual counseling, crisis services, 24-hr hotlines, screening and evaluations, off-campus referrals, support groups, and group counseling” (McLeigh 2014).  As colleges prepare with these sort of fresh ideas to aid students’ well-being, so too can students participate in bringing about a community that fosters and promotes health and wellness.  Students can work together to bring down the ever-present stigma surrounding having a mental illness or mental/emotional troubles, create  peer support groups, advocate for more services as unified body, and help those who struggle by befriending and encouraging them (McLeigh 2014).


Each generation has its defining moments that shape and mold the way they see the world and interact with it.  Along with 9-11, the student loan crisis, economic downturn, and lack of preparation for college have increased the odds of Millennials failing.  However, if the generation can use its creative and postmodern spirit, it can build a resilience to these issues as they face them head on together.  Millennials are take-charge kind of people, and if they want to achieve the American Dream they must embrace these hardships and take responsibility in resolving them in order to succeed with their potential to be one of America’s greatest generations.


Cramer, R. (n.d.). Millennials rising: coming of age during the great recession. Retrieved March 1st, 2014, from

McLeigh, J. (2014). Young adults in conflict: confident but struggling, networked but disconnected. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(6), 624-632. Retrieved March 1st, 2015, from

Sanburn, J. (2014, December 8). 4 ways millennials have it worse than their parents. Time. Retrieved March 1st, 2015, from

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