Apr 9, 2009

Comparing arguments about Gen Y

How 'entitlement attitudes' harm America
"Alarmingly increasing numbers of Americans, however, seem to have difficulty seeing any limits to their entitlement, and as a result of their "entitlement attitudes," they're behaving in ways that are harming themselves in the short run and the country in the long run. These are the 20-somethings who took six years to earn bachelors' degrees, left college with $10,000 in credit card debt, and still feel entitled to big-screen televisions because "other people" have them, even though "other people" have worked harder, educated themselves better and saved longer... Slowly, over time, with the help of their parents, their teachers and our popular culture, entitlement attitudes blossomed, grew and ripened into full-blown, individual and societal, economic and interpersonal, disasters.

"Well-meaning parents are the foremost instillers and nurturers of entitlement attitudes. When they go beyond satisfying all of their children's needs and start satisfying all of the children's wants as well, these parents not only "spoil" the kids figuratively, but they also literally spoil the kids' chances of learning how to manage resources responsibly. When kids learn to expect excess rather than to anticipate scarcity, they learn to expect needs and wants to be satisfied equally rather than to differentiate and prioritize between and among them. They also learn to expect others to make sacrifices for them rather than to be self-reliant. They lose the connection between getting what they want and doing something of value, and they learn to go about getting what they want by placing demands on others rather than by making themselves useful to others."

Most 20-Somethings avoiding shortcuts, taking proven paths
"Fast forward to 2009 and the argument that 20 Somethings are softening America’s economic drive and resolve plus are generally self-centered. Get real. Yes, there are probably those that are guilty as charged but that applies to every age group.

"Those stepping forward to fill most of the military ranks are still 20-Somethings. And when it comes to having their head screwed on straight about delayed gratification when it comes to building a life, 20-Somethings in Manteca look especially smart.

"It is easy to come across those in their 20s – single and married – who are resisting dining out every night, spending tons of money on entertainment, pursuing new car lust, or spending every last dime so they can buy homes. They aren’t mortgaging to the max. They aren’t insisting on granite counter tops. They understand needs are more important than wants. They don’t talk of starter homes. They talk of paying off the mortgage.

"The generation of 20-Somethings may actually be more attuned to living within their means than any generation since the Great Depression. It has something to do with the current economic crisis created by easy money and greed that ballooned housing prices that led to the mortgage meltdown. They also saw the dot.com boom go bust.

"If the truth be told, though, most 20-Somethings never got caught up in the get rich quick or entitlement mindset."

I think it's interesting to look where different arguments about Gen Y come from. Age, for instance, creates a pretty significant difference. I think older generations are obviously more inclined to look down on the generations that follow. It's a mix of "When I was your age, I had to walk three miles, uphill, barefoot, in the snow" critiques, as well as the fear that everything is going to go to the dogs once you're no longer there to protect it.

I think politics also have something to do with it. For conservatives, who see the movement away from marrying early, starting a family, and joining the traditional workforce as a negative thing for society at large, there's little surprise that the younger generation's delaying of "adult" responsibilities (i.e. getting a job, getting married, having children) is seen as bad.

I'm sure a lot of other factors go into this difference of opinion. Still, it's so funny to see different people taking the same information, the same group, and drawing such wildly different conclusions.


  1. I completely agree. I'm in my 30's and it is NOT true that younger generations spend more on cars or granite countertops. Younger generations HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than generations before them. Real wages have actually (depending on the resource) either stagnated or decreased since the 70's and that accounts for inflation only. In 1970, the cost of almost all big ticket items was A LOT less - education, health care, housing, etc. Never mind that in order to keep your family housed, clothed and with a CHANCE at a higher education, you need two incomes which then requires day care...or the fact that pensions have been thrown overboard in favor of 401K's - I have almost $700 per pay period ($1400/month) put into my 401K for the mere possibility of having a decent retirement...and not at 55 or 60 like so many retirees today, but MAYBE at 65 or 70. The myth of the younger genereations spending more is a myth for the older generations to rationalize what they will continue to take from us in the form of entitlements.

  2. interesting. i don't really think there's one way to categorize our generation, but we ARE different, of course. every generation is!

  3. i sort of agree with the whole entitlement attitude that some 20somethings have (well, i grew up and know a LOT of people with this attitude) but i definitely disagree about our generation spending more.

  4. Hi Katie! You've been given an award, go check it out at my cozy e*home: http://adomian.blogspot.com

  5. I have to show my Dad this post. He always says stuff like our generation feel entitled blah bla, and now I have an awesome comeback! Victory!

  6. To quote Coolio in Gangsta's paradise "Too much television watchin' got me chasin' dreams". Ok so Coolio isn’t well known for his economic enlightenment but I do think that our generations interest in shows like "cribs" which illustrate, what is for the masses, an unrealistic level of affluence don't do us any favors, it just breeds an expectation of where we feel we should be. This may come back to haunt us when we all start turning 40 and realize how unattainable it is for so many (midlife meltdown anyone). I agree though that for every muppet that has 3 credit cards burnt out and a ton of debt there is someone with a sound investment in something sensible, the charm of our generation is that we are so difficult to pigeon hole!

    Great blog btw, stumbled here from twenty something.