'Millennials are lazy.'
'Millennials are entitled.'
'Millennials are a screen-obsessed generation.'
You have probably heard that a lot, so have I. Generation gap is a natural phenomenon, differences in opinions between young and older adults are unavoidable, what matters is whether these opinions are true or not.
Facts are more important than opinions.
What Have we Achieved in the Last Century?
In the book “The Rise and Fall of American Growth”, professor Robert J. Gordon argues against the techno-optimism that we see around the world today.
According to the writer, from 1870 to 1970, we had a remarkable century in which life absolutely changed in every possible dimension for ordinary people, but since then progress has slowed to a crawl.
An average home was completely isolated in 1870, only 60 years laters, at about 1930, almost all households were connected in 5 different ways: electricity, gas, telephone, running water and waste disposal. Not only did we have the invention of electricity, but also the revolutionary change from scrub boards to electric washing machines, the development of internal combustion engines and air travel.
If we have to compare all of that with the technological change over the last 50 years, we haven’t achieved much except for the I.T. revolution. The latest technological innovations have affected only a narrow span of life weighed against the Five Great Inventions from the past, which were groundbreaking in every sense of the word. In fact, houses haven’t changed much since 1970, nor has public transportation; we still use the exact same home electrical appliances and the same trains and airplanes. Which is why the economist argues that the I.T. revolution is less important than any of the greatest inventions that powered economic growth from 1870 to 1970.
Is he right? I'm afraid so.
What is Going on with Productivity Growth?
Companies expected the I.T. revolution to contribute largely to economic growth, they hoped it would be as dynamic as the Industrial Revolution. Instead, the economy witnessed the so-called "Solow paradox", which refers to the slowdown in productivity growth in the 1970s and 1980s despite rapid development in the field of information technology.
From 1939 to 2000, the average annual increase in productivity in the U.S. was about 2.7% per year; from the year 2000 and on, it went crashing down to 0.9% per year. The only correlation they have been able to find is the intensive use of technology; we are no longer in control of technology, we are letting technology control us instead. No wonder why productivity growth is falling, we are becoming more absent-minded and less creative.
Data Proves that Millennials are Poorer than Previous Generations
A report by the Pew Research Center states that the median net worth of households headed by Millennials (born between 1980–1995) was about $12,500 in 2016, compared with $20,700 for households headed by Boomers (born between 1946–1964) the same age in 1983.
Another analysis made by the Federal Reserve System indicates that there is a remarkable decrease in asset holdings by millennial households. Homeownership among young adults decreased from 50% in 2001, to 34% in 2016. Holdings of financial assets such as stocks have also declined significantly for younger households in recent decades.
Technology is reshaping our spending habits, the younger generation prefers spending over saving, renting over buying. More specifically, young consumers are becoming more and more brand-obsessed, this phenomenon has increased notably due to social media. People are spending ridiculous amounts of money just to keep up with trends.
The Marriage Crisis
"Marriage predates government. It is the fundamental building block of all human civilization." -Ryan T. Anderson
Although families are personal relationships they greatly shape and serve the public good. Strong families make for strong communities. The rise of divorce rates and the fall of marriage rates — in the first place, harms society as a whole.
Statistics show that, on average, married couples have better physical health, more financial stability, and greater social mobility than unmarried people. In fact, studies prove that divorce and unwed childbearing cost about $112 billion annually to taxpayers, that's because children raised in single-parent homes are statistically more prone to addiction and thus more prone to commit crime.
Lack of Social Integration: Suicide and Society
A generational gap has always existed and it always will, but this is not what we are seeing today, what we are seeing is actually a generational break. The very concept of 'society' is changing, it is no longer thought of as a physical concept but rather a virtual concept.
Are we still holding together in this new online community? The question of how society holds together and how to understand when it goes wrong was answered by the sociologist Émile Durkheim in his book "Suicide", the first piece of sociological work to use statistical methods as its primary mode of argument.
When Durkheim looked at suicide statistics in Europe over the 19th century, he saw a massive increase in suicide rates, one that coincided with the shift from traditional to modern society. He argued that traditional societies were highly socially integrated, people knew their place in society and what that place meant; on the other hand, modern societies were characterized by a weaker sense of common consciousness and a less intense communal life which led to a lack of social integration; the decline of religion and other traditional values ripped the society apart.
Are we going through the same phenomenon identified by Durkheim two centuries ago?