Nature v. Nurture and the Millennial Generation

The millennial generation is labeled as lazy and entitled. We forego the American dream of marriage, two-story home with garage, and well paying nine to five jobs, to still live with our parents and pursue alternative career options.

I believe the generation that raised us, mostly baby boomers, taught us a solid work ethic and instilled core values into our fabric of being. The truth is we are not lazy or entitled; we are just different. The classic debate of nature vs. nurture undertones our generational experience as we were raised with the American values of hard work and perseverance, but the world has become less stable and full scale revolutions in the workplace from technology to manufacturing have taken place.

The financial crisis of 2008 left my generation with PTSD and a host of trust issues. The first wave of millennials were graduating college and prepping to enter the work force just as the economic infrastructure of the United States was failing. The housing market, which could be relied upon with the same certainty that the sun sets in the west, collapsed.

The waves of millennials graduating from college after the recession find that jobs paying a wage that justify the tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt are scarce. Slave labor has been repackaged as “unpaid internships”, promising to give college graduates who don’t know better a foot in the door. For entry level jobs, and jobs requiring a few years of experience, wages have remained stagnant; while rent and cost of living increases are swift.

The combining economic factors of cheap foreign labor and automation has shrunk the availability of work for millennials who decided not to go to college. This disproportionately affects millennial males. Women outnumber men in college enrollments, in 2012 by 10% with 71% of women enrolled in college compared to 61% of males.

Manufacturing, construction, and transportation were once reliable industries that non-college educated men could make a good living in. Humans have almost entirely been removed from manufacturing products, and automation is set to do the same in construction and transportation.

We were nurtured to play by rules that governed a different era, and nature has turned all of those ideas on their head. Staying true to biology, we have adapted as a generation – by becoming mobile, less committed, and more entrepreneurial than previous generations.

According to a new survey 43% of millennials moved away from their hometown and 44% said they moved to a more densely populated city than where they grew up. The most common response for moving was jobs, concentrated in big cities where tech industries have blossomed. Nearly half the respondents said they were likely to move in the next year.

As a generation of transients, commitment to a geographic area or city is not an ideal that has been successfully passed down. Millennials have a lower rate of home ownership than other generations did at the same age. The shift in our economy away from manufacturing towards technology has created a pivot in the geographic locale of labor demand; cities like Detroit and others of the rust belt have been traded for tech boomers like San Francisco and Atlanta.

Seventeen years into the twenty first century and it feels like we are closer to a world of the Jetsons than we are to the pre-internet era. The millennial generation is the great guinea pig of history bridging the gap between two periods of time that are as different as the dark ages and the renaissance, and will be studied by future historians as so. We struggle to stay true to the ideals of our forefathers while living in a world our forefathers couldn’t have imagined.

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