veryone’s trying to get to the bottom of the millennial generation, and their follow-up, Generation Z. By dissecting lifestyle choices, buying habits, and media consumption, baby boomers and Gen Xers have been trying to put their collective fingers on the pulse of America’s younger demographics. But it’s difficult – millennials just don’t seem to want to fall in line. They don’t want to get married, buy cars or houses, or have children. It’s been a big topic of discussion in Boomer circles, but ask any millennial, and it’s pretty easy to figure out.
Millennials are under a lot more pressure, at least financially speaking, than previous generations. This is made very clear in a new study put together by Job Application Center, titled “Millennial Math.” By looking at cost comparisons across four generations – the greatest generation, baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials – the accompanying infographics display the exponential growth in costs (adjusted for inflation) that millennials are having to deal with that their forerunners didn’t.
Here’s how Job Application Center set up their criteria: “We considered four generations – the Greatest Generation (born 1901–1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964), Generation X (born 1965–1985), and Millennials (born 1978–1990). Generations’ birthdates often are loosely defined and even controversial, but we assigned each generation a precise birthdate window for research purposes.”
And in conclusion, the study doesn’t offer much in the way of rainbows and sunshine. “For better or for worse, life has certainly changed from the early 20th century to now. Costs of everything from houses to groceries have soared, and many people are making difficult decisions about their futures based on finances.”
We pulled some of the most eye-opening statistics from Job Application Center’s “Millennial Math” graphic, and dig into them below:
1. Tuition is up 150%
On average, millennials pay 150% more in tuition than baby boomers. This has really been the one central factor that has led to struggles for many younger people, as just getting an education is now vastly more expensive than it was for previous generations. 150% may seem low – and in many cases, it is. Many schools have raised tuition by much more than that, and it’s also a bit of a misleading number in that tuition isn’t the only thing college students are paying more for. Books, room and board, food, and a myriad of other factors have made a college education completely unaffordable for many.
2. The barriers to entry are higher
Leapfrogging from tuition and higher education expenses right into this: more jobs these days require a college degree to even apply. This is one of the reasons that we end up with 61% of millennials attending college compared to 46% of baby boomers. Employers want educated, dedicated employees. One way to ensure that is to hire college graduates – even if the job they’re doing doesn’t necessarily require a college degree.
Simply put, the barriers to entry are higher. You’re not going to walk into a business, give the manager a firm handshake, tell them all about your high school diploma, and walk out with a job that will support a middle class life.
3. A wedding? May as well buy a college education
“In 1980, the average wedding cost $22,500. In 2010, it was $28,000, a 24% increase.” When the average wedding costs nearly as much as the average millennial’s annually salary, it’s not hard to figure out why so many millennials are putting the ceremony off. Yes, boomers’ weddings were expensive too, but even when accounting for inflation, the price is up 24%. By delaying marriage, and in many cases, buying a house and having children, millennials are clearly trying to get a more sound financial footing.
4. Houses cost three times more
Ah yes, housing costs. You may have heard about how you used to be able to buy a house with a single person’s blue-collar salary. Those days are gone. Housing prices are up 294%, per Job Application Center’s measures, which means that millennials need three times the cash that their parents and grandparents did. Given that wages have been stagnant for nearly as long, and millennials also have huge student loans to pay back, buying a home is often completely out of the question.
5. Food expenses have grown exponentially
Food costs are another expense that has grown exponentially over the years. Just look at this graphic, which even accounts for inflation:
Even though we’re able to produce much more food with much less effort and people, costs are still piling up. And that further eats away at a paycheck, much of which is already dedicated to paying off an education that was needed to get a job. Higher food prices are yet another factor that is making life more difficult for younger generations than it was for previous ones, and there’s no indication that that will change soon.