In (partial) defense of Millennials


George Anders at Forbes has a brief but unbalanced piece on Millennials’ spending habits.  The article shows why data-driven stories, just like any other stories, need to be put into context.

Anders uses a Harris/Eventbrite study to cast the Millennials as free-wheeling, thrill-seeking drifters.  This is based on the survey’s result that an overwhelming majority of Millennials prefer to spend on events and festivals rather than more possessions.

Regardless of this viewpoint’s wisdom (studies have shown time and again that people recollect experiences better than things), is this survey result enough to make a blanket statement of a whole generation?  Surely a lot of elderly people, who have seen possessions come and go, might also agree that memories matter more than things.  Was this question asked of any other age group and then compared with the Millennials’ results?

In addition, does the behavior Anders is ascribing to Millennials match reality?  So many Millennials are bogged down in student debt that it is hard to believe they are all such free spirits.  Most are just struggling to get by and find a job that is suitable for their educational level.  A trip to a music festival is an awfully lot more affordable than buying a house.  Did the survey make any factor or adjustment for annual income or amount of student debt?  These are likely related to consumption preferences.

I don’t often find myself defending my generation so strongly, but this article needed refuting.  The author takes a vague poll and uses it for broad generalizations without any control group or underlying economic theory.  Millennials do have their commitment issues (dating and marriage comes to mind) but to paint them as unfettered souls without precedent is unfair.

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