Millennials are Poorer Than Their Parents, Study Finds


Millennials have made headlines in recent years for not owning houses, for living with their parents, and for spending less money than previous generations.

Pundits have wondered why. Are Millennials rejecting consumerism? Embracing a simpler lifestyle? Do they have a different notion of the American Dream, one that doesn’t include homeownership? Do they lack work ethic?

It turns out the answer is simple: due to economic factors, they don’t have as much money as their parents.

Emily Sullivan of NPR reports:

A study published this month by Christopher Kurz, Geng Li and Daniel J. Vine found Millennials are less financially well-off than members of earlier generations when they were the same ages, with "lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth."

Their finances were compared with Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation.

The researchers examined spending, income, debt, net worth, and demographic factors among the generations to determine "it primarily is the differences in average age and then differences in average income that explain a large and important portion of the consumption wedge between millennials and other cohorts."

Millennials entered the job market during the Great Recession. Jobs were more difficult to secure, and wage inflation moved at a slower pace. Economic factors are to blame for the trend in lower spending, and while Millennials have had to bear the burden financially, it is important to remember that those conditions were created by the decisions of previous generations.

Sullivan also adds, “The study also noted newer financial obstacles for Millennials. Broad economic trends depict a rise in health care expenditures, as well as a rise in college tuition that has outpaced general inflation that previous generations avoided in their young adulthood.”

What does this mean for churches? First, don’t crack jokes about Millennials that blame them for everything. It’s not helpful.

It is also important to consider what this might mean for financial stewardship in your congregation in the years ahead. It may be the case that members of emerging generations who are committed to financial generosity will not give the same amount of money to the church as previous generations in the years ahead, not because they are not giving proportionately, but because their total income is less.

More Millennials have pursued advanced degrees (which means more student debt) and have delayed marriage or haven’t married at all (marriage correlates well with financial security). Business have noticed that Millennials have similar consumption preferences as older generations, but spend less money. As a result, businesses have adjusted their sales expectations and business models.

These economic realities will likely have an effect on the church. God remains a God of abundance, and the Bible repeatedly tells stories of how God multiplies small gifts exponentially. God can still do much with what the church does receive. Yet, the wise leader will need to be aware of the financial stresses that exist in Millennial households and help their people to steward their resources well.

If financial receipts are less in the years ahead as Millennials continue to mature, it may not be because they are failing to tithe or move toward the tithe. People might still be generous. We might just be moving through a leaner time which affects all of us, the entire body of Christ.