Millennial Home Sales
Millennial Home Sales

The word "millennial" tends to be associated with blame and shame: "They're too lazy and too poor to move out of their parents' basement," some critics think.

A recent Wall Street Journal article asserted that the demand for canned tuna has declined because millennials "don't even own can openers" in a world that favors "convenience."

Millennials shot back on social media that they actually prefer fresh and frozen fish, requiring quite a bit more preparation and effort than opening a can.

But often overlooked in those discussions are hefty student debt and wages out of pace with the cost of living, and a new survey showing aspects of being a millennial, such as home ownership and career development, that defy popular opinion.

And guess what? Millennials are growing up.

Accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP reports that millennials —defined by the firm as ranging from 20 to 36 years old — are more positive, more stable and more invested in the real estate market than just two years ago.

"In two years, millennials are progressing. They're graduating college, finding full-time jobs, buying houses and getting married," the Millennial Economy 2018 report said.

While more than 80 percent of millennials say that student debt has forced them to delay buying real estate, home ownership among that age group has increased since 2016.

In 2018, 40 percent of millennials owned homes — not far behind the approximately 45 percent of Generation Xers and baby boomers who owned homes around the same age, according to the Ernst report.

Two years earlier, only 26 percent of millennials owned their homes.

And the storied number of millennials who live at home in their parents' basements has been cut nearly in half, from 30 percent in 2016 to 16 percent in 2018, while the percent of millennial renters has remained level — 43 percent in 2016 and 2018.

Like earlier generations faced with bubble real estate values, some millennials are moving away from big cities and buying homes in the suburbs and smaller towns, according to the 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational report

The path to home ownership is career success by way of a good education and hard work, respondent millennials told Ernst.

Eighty-six percent of millennials said working hard "is an extremely or very important factor in getting ahead in life," according to the data.

"Millennials see themselves as their best resource for career development," the report said. "It's up to me to seek skills and opportunities proactively, wherever they are offered," answered 35 percent of those surveyed.

Twenty- to 36-year-olds acknowledge that the economy in 2018 is more stable than it was two years ago, but the "deeply pessimistic" generation, as the report calls them, remain skeptical that the stability will last.

Their outlook on the American economy remains bleak — only 9 percent of respondents would call the current economy "excellent." But opinions vary greatly among party affiliations.

Despite being seen as job-hoppers, the report showed that millennials are "risk-averse" in their career choices and aren't changing jobs any more quickly than Generation X did at the same age — a point backed up by a Pew study last year.

"Millennial workers, those ages 18 to 35, are just as likely to stick with their employers as their older counterparts in Generation X were when they were young adults," Pew senior researcher Richard Fry wrote in a piece last April. 

The biggest concern millennials expressed about their future was retirement. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that they worry "a lot or some" about their security at the end of their careers.

Lowest on the list of concerns was "foreign competition for jobs," which 31 percent of respondents said they worried about "a lot or some."

"Millennials' primary priority is pay equity, but flexibility is also important in their career," the report said. The concern about pay equity was notable among millennial women.

Thirty-six percent of millennials who identify as Democrats describe the economy as excellent or good.

But among Republicans, the "outlook on the economy has skyrocketed with the election of Donald Trump," according to the 2018 report. Of those who identify as Republican millennials, 75 percent said the economy was excellent or good.

Thirty-one percent said the same thing in 2016.

Generally, millennials tend to lean Democratic, according to Pew Research Center. As of March 2018, 59 percent were Democrat or lean Democratic, while 32 percent were Republican or lean Republican.

And while 77 percent of millennials report that they are proud to be American, 30 percent report "high levels of confidence in American institutions," and 19 percent report a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in "corporate America," down one point from 2016.

One thing has not changed: Humanities majors are most likely to be in student loan debt, while business majors are among the least likely, according to the studies.