It is an exaggeration to say Millennials are a lost generation. But there is a large segment of Millennials--perhaps even the majority--who missed out on something important when they were growing up. That something is programming literacy, now as critical for success in the job market as reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the Internet. Most are comfortable with Facebook, Twitter, texting, browsing, streaming videos, downloading audios, and shopping online. They are adept at consuming what the Internet has to offer. They are not skilled at producing for the Internet, which is what employers of all sorts now want. To be successful in today's economy, young workers need to know how to build and maintain web sites, how to market products and services through social networks, how to write and edit code. They need to be literate in the theory and practice of programming.
Millennials know they lack these skills. In the American Freshman Survey, UCLA's annual probe into the attitudes of college freshmen nationwide, only 38 percent of freshmen say their computer skills are above average. This is a surprisingly honest assessment from these young adults, 71 percent of whom think they are above average in academic ability and 73 percent of whom think they are above average in their drive to achieve.
How did Millennials miss out on acquiring literacy in programming while surrounded by computers and the Internet? They had the bad luck to be born at the wrong time, raised by parents and taught by teachers who at best knew little about computers and the Internet and at worst were dismissive and fearful of their capabilities. The computer illiterate older generation was incapable of instilling in today's young adults a literacy in programming.
The Problem with High Ceilings
Houses are larger than they used to be and this is a long-term problem for energy consumption, says the Energy Information Administration in its new report, The Impact of Increasing Home Size on Energy Demand.
Homes built in the 1970s and 1980s averaged less than 1,800 square feet. Homes built in the 2000s averaged 2,465 square feet. "Square footage typically stays fixed over the life of a home and it is a characteristic that is expensive, even impractical to alter to reduce energy consumption," says EIA.
Even worse for energy consumption are the high ceilings in many newly built homes. The percentage of new homes with ceilings higher than the traditional 8 feet grew from 17 percent in the 1970s to the 52 percent majority in the 2000s.
More Young Asians and Blacks
After months of dribbling out, state-by-state, detailed race data from the 2010 census, the Census Bureau finally released Summary File 2 tables for the nation as a whole. What a difference they make in our understanding of the Asian and black populations.
31 Percent More Young Asians The 2010 census counted 15 million people who identify themselves as Asian alone. But there are 17 million people who identify themselves as Asian alone or Asian in combination with other races. And not until today did we know the age distribution of those additional 2 million people. Here's why that's important: the 54 percent majority of the additional Asians are under age 20 because so many parents identified their children as multiracial. By including multiracial Asians in the mix, the number of Asians under age 20 expands by 31 percent!
11 Percent More Young Blacks The black population also expands when multiracial blacks are added to the mix. The black alone population numbered 40 million in 2010. The black alone or black in combination population numbered 42 million. Seventy-nine percent of the additional blacks are under age 20. By including multiracial blacks in the mix, the number of blacks under age 20 grows by 11 percent. For marketers, these differences are huge.
No Credit Cards
More than one in four Americans aged 18 or older does not have a credit card, according to the AARP Survey on Budgeting and Credit Card Use. Younger adults are more than twice as likely to be without credit cards than adults aged 50 or older. Here are the percentages without a credit card by age...
- Total adults: 26%
- Aged 18-49: 34%
- Aged 50-plus: 16%
College Enrollment Rates: 2011
The college enrollment rate of recent high school graduates is down slightly from the all-time high of 70.1 percent set in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among 2011 high school graduates, 68.3 percent were enrolled in college by October of that year. Sixty-two percent of those enrolled in college were attending a four-year school and 38 percent were at a two-year institution.
Women are now more career-oriented than men, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, 66 percent of women and a smaller 59 percent of men say being successful in a high paying career is very or one of the most important things in their life.
2010 Census: Households and Families
Every ten years the census asks the residents of every household in the country about their living arrangements. The Census Bureau recently released a 2010 census brief analyzing those results (See Cool Links below for more about this). Surprisingly, despite the economic dislocations of the Great Recession, household size fell during the decade and multigenerational households still account for only a tiny fraction of the total. These are some of the most important findings...
- Married couples account for fewer than half of households (48 percent).
- The number of nuclear families (married couples with children under age 18) fell by 1.2 million between 2000 and 2010, to 23.6 million households (20 percent of total households).
- People living alone are a larger share of households (27 percent) than nuclear families. They are the second most common household type after married couples without children under age 18 at home (28 percent).
- Unmarried partner households grew by 41 percent to 7.7 million (7 percent of total households). Of these, 646,000 are same-sex unmarried partners.
- Ten percent of married couples have partners of a different race or Hispanic origin.
- Average household size fell slightly, from 2.59 people in 2000 to 2.58 people in 2010.
- Multigenerational households (defined as households with three or more generations of relatives) grew from 3.9 million to 5.1 million between 2000 and 2010 and account for 4 percent of households.
Retirement: Expecting the Worst
Only 38 percent of Americans who are not yet retired expect to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, according to a Gallup poll. Fully 55 percent say they will not have enough money for a comfortable retirement.
Homeownership Rates in 2012
Overall, 65.1 percent of households owned their home in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Census Bureau. The homeownership rate fell 1 percentage point between the first quarters of 2011 and 2012.
- Between 2011 and 2012, the homeownership rate fell in all but one age group, the lone exception being householders aged 70 to 74. But the increase in homeownership among 70-to-74-year-olds was within the margin of error.
- The biggest decline in the homeownership rate over the past four quarters has been among householders aged 35 to 39, their rate falling by 4.4 percentage points to 56.4 percent.
- Fewer than half of householders aged 30 to 34 are homeowners (48.3 percent, down from an annual high of 57.4 percent in 2004), and their sharply lower homeownership rate is being carried into the next older age group as they enter their late thirties.
- The only good news for the housing industry is the apparent stability in the homeownership rate of householders aged 25 to 29. At 34.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the homeownership rate of this age group has barely budged for the past three quarters. Historically (with data going back to 1982), the annual homeownership rate 25-to-29-year-olds bottomed out at 33.6 percent in 1992 and 1993 and peaked at 41.8 percent in 2006.
How Many Have Pre-Existing Conditions?
Most of us. Depending on how pre-existing conditions are defined, as many as 122 million adults aged 19 to 64 have a health condition that can limit their access to the private health insurance market, according to a GAO report. That's 66 percent of the working-age population.
Today, in most states, private health insurers can deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act will eliminate this problem beginning in 2014 by requiring health insurance companies to cover everyone regardless of health status. Only five states now offer this kind of protection to their residents: Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. Everywhere else, you're on your own.
Who is most at risk in this Wild West health insurance saloon? All of us. Among people aged 19 to 64, the GAO reports that pre-existing conditions can be found in as many as...
- 72% of women
- 59% of men
- 84% of 55-to-64-year-olds, 74% of 45-to-54-year-olds, 65% of 35-to-44-year-olds, 55% of 25-to-34-year-olds, and 45% of 19-to-24-year-olds
- 72% of non-Hispanic whites, 59% of blacks, and 51% of Hispanics
This isn't rocket science. In a nation that seems hell bent on making it difficult if not impossible for individuals to buy health insurance, entrepreneurship is nearly extinct.
According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, only 0.32 percent of adults started a business in 2011, down 5.9 percent from the level of 2010. Demographically speaking, the entrepreneurs of today have nothing left to lose. By educational level, high school dropouts are most likely to start a business. Least likely: college graduates.
Let's connect the dots between unemployment, retirement, and the future of consumer spending.
Unemployment In April, the unemployment rate fell slightly (to 8.1 percent), despite weak job growth (a gain of 115,000 jobs). Unemployment fell because hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the labor force.
Retirement The labor force is shrinking in part because the large baby-boom generation is beginning to retire en masse. A MetLife survey reports that 45 percent of the oldest boomers (who turned 65 in 2011) are already fully retired. Yes, boomers say they are going to postpone retirement, but not for long according to a University of Michigan study. The Michigan study examined how the Great Recession affected the retirement plans of Americans aged 50 or older. The results show that the average household headed by an older American lost 5 percent of its wealth between 2008 and 2009. This should result in an additional 3.7 to 5.0 additional years of work to make up for the loss. Instead, those postponing retirement are planning to work only for an additional 1.6 years, live on less, and leave less for their heirs.
Spending The baby-boom's retirement will dampen consumer spending for years to come and will reduce the wealth of younger generations, who will inherit less.