Turns out Baby Boomers and Millennials have more in common than they think.
The other night I had a big “AHA” moment about presidential candidate Andrew Yang after listening to a panel discussion called “Are Millennials Killing the Suburbs?”
Yang is the Millennial guy who caught a bunch of flack from the mainstream cable TV talking heads for wearing an open collar during the first candidate debate.
He went on to own that criticism and there haven’t been any comments about it since.
I’m working on a co-living project that consists of co-op and cohousing on a very small site that encourages alternative transport modes like walking, bicycles, and mass transit. My colleague and I – we’re both Baby Boomers – were interested in what a panel of Millennial architectural and design professionals would have to say about, not only their housing choices, but also their lives.
The panel discussion was organized by Month of Modern.
The suburban home has served as an important cultural icon in this country since its inception post WWII. It has held its place as an aspirational staple of the American dream. However, as millennials enter their peak home buying years, they are becoming homeowners later and at lower rates.
How has growing up in the 21st century affected this generation’s idea of the American dream, its desirability, and its achievability?
As the largest generation in US history, how will this affect our cities?
As designers, how should we rethink our work as well as and the structure of our workplaces? Baby boomers and Generation X have undeniably propelled the profession into the 21st century, but millennials will soon set the prevailing culture of both the workforce and built environment.
There were frustrations expressed by the panel members about the American Dream. They have chosen to redefine the American Dream and live in smaller spaces closer to their places of work. Those criteria were high priorities, particularly because, while all had pretty good jobs, were faced with other expenses like college debt and consumer debt – having to pay for food and rent with credit cards.
Enter entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Yang is the only non-politician who has gained enough traction to stay on the Democratic candidate debate stage. Now I know why he is gaining so much traction.
Yang’s plan to provide a monthly stipend to everyone 18 or older wasn’t particularly named during the discussion, but one Millennial panelist said that an extra $1,000 per month would be a welcomed hedge to help make ends meet without having to take on another part-time gig.
I didn’t quite understand Yang’s guaranteed income plan until I listened in on this panel discussion about how times are changing.
Here’s what Yang says, “By 2015, automation had already destroyed four million manufacturing jobs, and the smartest people in the world now predict that a third of all working Americans will lose their jobs to automation in the next 12 years. Our current policies are not equipped to handle this crisis. Even our most forward-thinking politicians are unprepared.
“As technology improves, workers will be able to stop doing the most dangerous, repetitive, and boring jobs.
“This should excite us, but if Americans have no source of income – no ability to pay for groceries, buy homes, save for education, or start families with confidence – then the future could be very dark. Our labor participation rate now is only 62.7 percent, lower than it has been in decades, with 1 out of 5 working-age men currently out of the workforce.
“This will get much worse as self-driving cars and other technologies come online. This basic income, funded by a simple Value Added Tax, would guarantee that all Americans benefit from automation, not just big companies.
“An additional $1,000 a month would provide money to cover the basics for Americans while enabling us to look for a better job, start a business, go back to school, take care of loved ones or work toward our next opportunity.”
Getting too far down into the weeds about funding and so forth will divert away from the premise and the needs that arise from the changing economy.
What do Baby Boomers and Millennials have in common? In 2012, data show that both generations have the highest debt loads – over 65 years, $9,300.00; and 25 to 34 years $10,400.00.
Both generations are trying to get by on less. Baby Boomers have the most accumulated and inherited wealth largely tied up in big suburban homes that they can’t sell as they downsize and enter the last third of their lives. Millennials are downsizing also, but out of necessity largely because of high levels of debt and untimely cash flow.
Some can’t afford to move out of their parent’s basements.
Boomers and Millennials should be natural allies. Andrew Yang may be the guy who can find that common ground.