The standard accusations levied against this generation — about our legendary narcissism, our sense of entitlement, our endless whining — are destructive precisely because they ignore the magnitude of the crises that we face (and unless you grew up during the Great Depression, then no, I’m sorry, you really didn’t have it “just as tough” when you were our age). Perhaps if the middle-class weren’t eroding before our very eyes, or if the economy was actually creating good jobs, or if there were any labor movement at all – or if the super-rich simply hadn’t managed to successfully hijack our democracy and our courts … perhaps then, things would be different. And if, in this idyllic utopia of our hippie-liberal imaginations, millennials were still the whiny, spoiled, entitled brats we’re so frequently portrayed as, accusations about our lack of character might be both fair and accurate.
Take, for example, Americans age 25 to 34, the leading edge of the so-called millennials, the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s. They are worse off than Gen Xers (born from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s) were at that age and the baby boomers before them by nearly every economic measure — employment, income, student loan indebtedness, mobility, homeownership and other hallmarks of “household formation,” like moving out on their own, getting married and having children.