The week@work – Millennial myths, millennials@home and relocation stagnation

Apparently, Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Interesting fact to contemplate as 38 million of us return from our adventures over the holiday weekend. It probably doesn’t help that for the first time, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to live at home, with their parents. Experts, not just parents, are voicing concerns about how this relocation stagnation is destroying what economists refer to as ‘dynamism’ in the job market.

This week@work we take a look back at the week’s stories of millennial myths and our dwindling pioneer spirit.

In April we reached a generational tipping point, when the number of folks between the ages of 18 and 34, aka millennials, overtook Americans between 51 and 69, the baby boomers, by 75.4 million to 74.9 million. And, as every move of the post WWII generation was observed and chronicled, so have we had this new majority under the microscope. It has been quite a lucrative vocation for the thousands of corporate consultants who advise executives on recruitment and retention.

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But what if they got it wrong? Farad Manjoo thinks the “collectively homogenous cliche” portrayed in the media is a far cry from reality and believes it’s time to break away from the stereotypes. Thank-you.

“If your management or marketing theories involve collapsing all millennials into a catchall anthropological category — as if you’re dealing with space aliens or some newly discovered aboriginal tribe that’s suddenly invaded modernity — you’re doing it wrong.

Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center, said demographers have noted large differences in millennials: Compared to older cohorts, they tend to be more socially liberal when it comes to issues like gay marriage and marijuana use, they marry later in life, and they are less enamored of traditional religious and political institutions. Looking at these shifts over time “is a useful construct when you’re trying to analyze a whole population,” Ms. Parker said.

But these broad trends leave lots of room for individual differences that matter in the real world, and that are often papered over when we talk about millennials as a monolithic collective.

Considering that millennials are the most diverse generation — spanning many racial, ethnic and income categories — intragenerational differences are bound to play an important role when you’re talking about individual people. Though both are “millennials,” a young immigrant working three sharing-economy gigs is likely to look at the world very differently from a trust-fund baby who’s tending his Tumblr in Brooklyn. Yet only one of these stereotypes tends to make it into media accounts of millennials.”

The busy folks at Pew Research released additional millennial data this week, “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds”.

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“It’s worth noting that the overall share of young adults living with their parents was not at a record high in 2014. This arrangement peaked around 1940, when about 35% of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad (compared with 32% in 2014). What has changed, instead, is the relative share adopting different ways of living in early adulthood, with the decline of romantic coupling pushing living at home to the top of a much less uniform list of living arrangements.”

Gillian B. White examined ‘The False Stereotypes About Millennials Who Live at Home’ for The Atlantic.

“…the Millennials who are most likely to wind up living with their relatives are those who come from already marginalized groups that are plagued with low employment, low incomes, and low prospects for moving up the economic ladder. Millennials who live at home are also more likely to be minorities, more likely to be unemployed, and less likely to have a college degree. Living at home is particularly understandable for those who started school and took out loans, but didn’t finish their bachelor’s degree. These Millennials shoulder the burden of student-loan debt without the added benefits of increased job prospects, which can make living with a parent the most viable option.

And while there may be comedic fodder in the idea of adult children trying to share space with their parents, staying at home for many Millennials and their family isn’t all that funny. For parents who are struggling to make ends meet, an extra mouth to feed or the inability to downsize to a smaller place can be truly burdensome. For many Millennials, moving out, even if they want to, could lead them to make financial decisions that would put them in an even more precarious place, and that’s precisely the opposite of what they, or the economy, need.”

Why will we travel 2,500 miles from home to attend our ‘first choice’ college, and yet resist relocation to a new urban environment for a job? Why do we spend a semester abroad in an internship or academic program and fail to accept a job offer fifty miles from home?

Has our pioneering spirit disappeared in the noise of descending helicopter parents, or are there more serious institutional prohibitions to career adventure?

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American Enterprise Institute president, and conservative author, Arthur C. Brooks offered advice on how to get America moving again, painting a grim picture of our current adventure deficit.

“Through census data, we know that Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Other scholarship suggests that the decline stretches back further. This might help explain why our country is having such a hard time getting out of its national funk.

Mobility is more than just a metaphor for getting ahead. In America, it has been a solution to economic and social barriers. If you descended from immigrants, I’m betting your ancestors didn’t come to this country for the fine cuisine. More likely they came in search of the opportunity to work hard and get ahead.

Even for those already here, migration has long been seen as a key to self-improvement. As Horace Greeley so famously advised in 1865: “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Patricia Cohen followed up with a more in-depth review, ‘A Dearth of Pioneers’.

“Staying put can mean that workers are not moving to jobs where they would be more productive. At the same time, many are forgoing the raises and ascents on the career ladder that often come with a job switch. Fewer openings can also have a ripple effect, shrinking the bargaining power of workers in general, making it tougher to ask for a bump up in pay.

The declining churn in the labor market may surprise those who assumed that the era of lifelong employment capped by a gold watch had given way to serial job-hopping. But the reality is more complicated, said Abigail Wozniak, an economist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the authors of a new report on the subject. While it is true that fewer people have very long tenures at a single company, she said, that trend has been swamped by a countervailing one: People are not moving as much out of what used to be entry-level and temporary jobs.

One of the more intriguing findings was the role of declining social trust and what is known as social capital — the web of family, friends and professional contacts. For example, the proportion of people who agree with the statement, “Most people can be trusted,” has been shrinking for more than three decades. Researchers found that states with larger declines in social trust also had larger declines in labor market fluidity. The lack of trust may increase the cost of job-hunting and make both employees and employers more risk-averse.

As social trust diminishes, people may feel more comfortable sticking closer to home where the faces are familiar even if job opportunities are scarcer, researchers suggested.”

 

 

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