Baby boomers or millennials: Which generation had a harder youth?


Fact Box

  • The Pew Research Center defines a millennial as anyone born between 1981 and 1996.
  • The term ‘baby boomer’ refers to Americans born during the marked increase in the nation’s birthrate following WWII, from 1946 until 1964.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2019, millennials, with a population of 72.1 million, have overtaken baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.  
  • Recent surveys and research reveal that millennials are more likely to live in urban centers, not be married, and not have much savings, while baby boomers tend to live in the suburbs, get married, and have substantial savings when at a comparable age.

Louis (Millennials)

Compared to other generations, the challenges millennials face throughout their youth and early adulthood are simply insurmountable. Societal changes and the threat of inflation that grows year by year are at the root of the overwhelming difficulties that millennials must contend with. 

Business Insider examined the cost for higher education among the different generations, concluding that millennials pay nearly double for college, even when considering inflation. This illustrates the contrasting struggles between generations in pursuing the same education and the same American dream.

In addition to the economic distress that young millennials must bear, there is an equal amount of concern over health. A Blue Cross Blue Shield study from 2019 exposed that millennials are experiencing physical and mental health decline at quicker rates than the generations prior.

Notably, Regis University conducted a study on the correlation between social media use and social isolation, which established that individuals who frequently use social media are three times more likely to feel isolated than those who use social media less. And it is said that millennials grew up 'social networking,' affirming that they have been much more greatly affected negatively by technology than others before. This social isolation often leads to depression, drug use, and in some cases, suicide. Not surprisingly, Addiction Center published a study on drug use related to the past three generations, and their results point to the fact that millennials are more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol than the generations before them. 

Fundamentally, these studies convey the difficulties of growing up as a millennial, especially when compared to baby boomers who could pursue the American dream unencumbered by financial woes or the constraints of technology overuse.

Bill (Baby Boomers)

In their youth, baby boomers had it harder than millennials in several ways. Boomers had none of the technology millennials enjoy today that make their daily lives easier: smartphones, laptops, internet, streaming music and movies, etc. Boomers also had far fewer entertainment options (including extremely limited television channels and no recording options to watch programs after they aired). 

Boomers' home life was also less cushy than millennials', as boomers were expected to pull their weight earlier and not be dependent on their parents as long as millennials typically are. This can be seen in the average age of boomer couples when first married compared to millennials. Early boomers got married seven to eight years sooner than millennials, and even late boomers got married four to five years earlier than their millennial counterparts.

Further, millennials--especially women--were groomed to attend college, giving them more career mobility and access to higher wages, and their college graduation rates compared to boomers confirm this. In 1989 when the youngest boomers were 25, the percentage of women with four-year college degrees was 18.1%; by 2019, this number more than doubled to 36.7%. 

Finally, boomers were less coddled than millennials. An Axios/Survey Monkey survey was less kind in its assessment of millennials, calling them 'spoiled,' 'lazy,' and 'entitled.' And this entitlement is said to have originated with their being indulged by 'helicopter' parents who believed that their children were special and deserving of every comfort, material possession, and advantage that life had to offer. In fact, celebrity parents have been convicted for fraudulently 'fixing' their children's college admissions applications to give them opportunities to attend more competitive, higher-status colleges. 

Clearly, boomers enjoyed far fewer advantages than millennials.

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