Within the millennial generation are several sub-generations.
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If you’re fed up with the millennial narrative, I get it.
It reads like a set of contradictions. Millennials can’t afford homes, according to one headline, while another states that they’re busy snapping up homes during the pandemic. Millennials are finally getting rich, per one article, but a different piece tells of millennials struggling to save money right now.
I know this, perhaps, better than anyone, having written about the financial behaviors and lifestyles of the generation for the past two years. My own articles, at first glance, seem at odds with one another.
Last April, I wrote about how the coronavirus recession was the latest blow to a generation that came limping out of the Great Recession. A few months later, I followed that up with a story about how millennials were socking away as much as $3,000 a month during quarantine. How can both be true? (The answer is the intragenerational wealth gap, which we’ll get to in a minute).
Here’s the thing: All of these portraits of millennials can coexist, and it’s these seeming contradictions that paint the truest picture of millennials – a fragmented generation with sub-cohorts thanks to a wealth divide and many nuances.
The millennial wealth gap
The millennial generation happens to be both rich and poor. It’s called a wealth gap, and it’s intensified during the pandemic.
“This pandemic is widening economic inequalities within millennials, with some millennials relatively unscathed economically and others just completely financially devastated by unemployment losses, increased childcare costs, lost economic opportunities, and lingering health problems that they or family members are going to experience,” Christine Percheski, demographer and associate professor of sociology at Northwestern University, told me back in January.
The intragenerational divide is marked by a cohort that feels left behind financially and professionally – one that’s reckoning with an affordability crisis defined by two recessions before the age of 40, soaring living costs, and staggering student debt. But not