Bloomberg’s War on Millennials

By on April 20, 2017 in Ramblings with 0 Comments

Today, Bloomberg continued riding on the anti-millennial bandwagon and published a new post entitled “A Quarter of Millennials Who Live at Home Don’t Work – Or Study.” Bloomberg I want you to stop and look at everything in this Facebook post. They’re using a stock photo to convey a sense of laziness: look at this lazy, entitled Millennial lying on his parents’ couch eating while they’re slaving away at work.

Bloomberg’s intent to paint a picture of laziness is made even clearer with the caption “the good life” and their post text that reads, “Just lying around their parents’ place.” The media has been (inexplicably) at war with millennials for years. Recall such headlines as:

7 Reasons Millennials Are The Worst Generation (Breitbart)
Five really good reasons to hate millennials (The Washington Post)
Millennials are entitled, narcissistic and lazy (Daily Mail)
Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation (Time)
Are Millennials Lazy, Entitled Narcissists? (CNBC)
How Millennials Are Ruining The Workforce (Philly Mag)
Why Are So Many Millennials Having Children Out Of Wedlock? (The Atlantic)
Why Are Millennials So Hard To Manage? (Forbes)
Why Aren’t Millennials Buying Diamonds? (The Economist)
American Millennials Are Some Of The World’s Least Skilled People (Huffington Post)

But let’s table all of that and focus on Bloomberg’s post about lazy, entitled millennials just lazing about and leeching off their parents. For the past several years, we’ve seen a growing trend of media outlets opting for sensationalized headlines that drive clicks, shares, and comments, rather than ones that seek to genuinely inform their audience. As people are becoming increasingly likely to read only the headline, rather than the full article, it’s important that headlines be explicit and accurate.

I decided to investigate whether it is, in fact, true that 1/4th of millennials who live at home don’t work or study. Bloomberg references “Census Bureau reports” as the source of its data, but what do the U.S. Census Bureau’s reports actually say? Well, here’s what Bloomberg writes in their second paragraph:

“About a third of 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. live at home, the Census Bureau reported on Wednesday. That includes college dormitories. Among 25- to 34-year-olds living at home, one in four is neither enrolled in school nor working. That’s 2.2 million people, a small percentage of the nation’s more than 70 million millennials but a striking figure nonetheless.”

Let’s break this down:

1/3rd of Americans aged 18 to 34 live at home. This includes college dormitories.
1/4th of Americans aged 25 to 34 that live at home are neither enrolled in school nor working.

(Be careful with these claims because (1) the age ranges are not consistent and (2) they’re making different points – the first is about living at home, the second is about living at home while being neither enrolled in school nor working.)

Well, it didn’t take long to debunk Bloomberg’s headline. Let me make a few points: First, if someone is living in a college dormitory then they must must be enrolled in school and they are not living at home. Even if 100% of dorm residents were to return home for the summer, it’s still misleading to label them as living with their parents and, of course, any claim that they aren’t enrolled in school is patently untrue. The second claim regarding Americans aged 25 to 34 can’t be the basis of the headline either, since the “25 to 34” age bracket doesn’t fully encompass the millennial generation.

But it looks like the second claim is the basis of Bloomberg’s headline. They write, “Among 25- to 34-year-olds living at home, one in four is neither enrolled in school nor working. That’s 2.2 million people, a small percentage of the nation’s more than 70 million millennials but a striking figure nonetheless.” As I mentioned above, that’s not a quarter of all millennials who are living at home, that’s a quarter of a particular subset of millennials who are living at home. And when Bloomberg says “a small percentage” they really mean a small percentage because 2,200,000 / 70,000,000 = 0.03 or 3% (but that’s much less exciting than what they shared in their headline). Maybe there’s something else going on here.

I decided to go directly to the Census Bureau’s report and run the numbers myself.

Let’s start by defining “unemployed” and “not in the labor force.” The following definitions come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“Persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Persons who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force. This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work.”

Of Americans aged 18 to 24 (28,010,698), 56% (15,795,266) are living at home. Of those living at home, 10.1% (1,595,322) are unemployed.

Of Americans aged 25 to 34 (42,861,420), 19.5% (8,381,719) are living at home. Of those living at home, 10.2% (854,935) are unemployed.

Let’s put it all together: Of Americans aged 18 to 34 (70,872,118), 34% (24,176,985) are living at home. Of those living at home, 10% (2,450,257) are unemployed. In other words: 1 in 10 Americans aged 18 to 34 who are living at home are also unemployed (not 1 in 4).

So where does the 1 in 4 figure come from?

The Census Bureau’s report includes a table titled, “One in Four Young People Living at Home Are Neither in School Nor Working: Characteristics of young adults aged 25 to 34 living in the parents’ home in 2015.”

Did you notice that? Yeah, it says “aged 25 to 34.” That means that people aged 18 to 24 aren’t included in the term “young people.” The report also doesn’t use the term “millennials” (that was added by Bloomberg). It’s also really important to point out that 27.6% of the “young people living at home who aren’t working or enrolled in school” have a disability, which the Census Bureau says, “[includes] one of the following six types of disabilities: hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, self-care difficulty, or independent living difficulty.”

Looking for a concise takeaway? 1 in 4 Americans aged 25 to 34 who are living with their parents are neither employed nor enrolled in school. If you’d like to exclude people with disabilities from this, then the number becomes less than 1 in 5 (18.6%). The term “young people” can only be used here if you define “young people” as 25 to 34 (and I’m not sure that’s an honest definition). The term “millennial” can only be used here if you define millennials as those who currently fall in the 25 to 34 age bracket (and that isn’t how the millennial generation is defined). If we look at the entire 18 to 34 bracket that we discussed earlier, then we could say that 1 in 10 Americans aged 18 to 34 who are living at home are also unemployed. (If you’re wondering what percentage of Americans aged 18 to 34 are living at home and unemployed, the answer is approximately 3.46%.)

I’d like to thank the U.S. Census Bureau for redefining “young people.” I’d also like to thank Bloomberg for sensationalizing Census data to push an anti-millennial agenda and for including people with disabilities in a group they depicted as lazy, entitled leeches.

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