Millennials: ‘Behind the Curve in Adulthood’ [AUDIO/VIDEO]
A good job, a family, and a home with a white picket fence; it’s the quintessential American Dream but for many New Jersey millennials facing crippling student loans and a tough job market, starting a life is exactly that – a dream.
In addition to the slow economy and bad job prospects, Rutgers sociologist Dr. Deborah Carr said young people today are putting starting a family on the backburner until they can make themselves financially stable.
“They’re staying in school longer, and the longer you stay in school the older you are when you marry,” Carr said. “It’s not that they’re killing time, the requirements to get a good job are higher and higher so we have a generation for whom a master’s degree is the equivalent to what a bachelor’s degree would have been one generation ago.”
She adds many millennials are the children of divorce and don’t want to rush into marriage for that reason.
“They don’t want to marry to young, so often that means dating for a younger time period, living together before one gets married, delaying marriage until both people until both people are secure in who they are,” she said.
Che Blackwood, 27, of Spring Lake Height, said many of her friends are getting married, but while it’s something she wants in the foreseeable future, it’s not on her plate at the moment.
“I think it’s not feasible for me buy a home, plan a $40,000 wedding, and have children right now so the career is more important. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want those things, I just want them when it’s right,” Blackwood said. “I am behind some people, but I don’t think I want to be there yet.”
Carr said while it’s very likely this generation will do all of the same things their predecessors did (get married, buy a home, have children), they’ll likely be doing it later in life-which will have consequences.
“Those who want to have many children may find that’s not possible. There’s this phrase used amongst demographers which says ‘a birth delayed is a birth forgone’ so if we have couples delaying marriage until they feel they’re ready financially and they try to start having children when they’re 35 or 40, they may have one or two, but if they want a larger family it’s probably not going to happen,” Carr said.
With many millennials forced to wait to start their lives, many feel like they are behind the curve in adulthood.
“I still have to pick up retail work just to get by. Even in 2014, five years after graduating, it’s still not where I want to be,” said Bradly Rice, 26 year old from Lincroft.
Kaitlin Deitz, a 27-year-old social worker from Tinton Falls, has a job in her chosen field that she loves, but is still not paid enough to be able to afford to move out and doesn’t quite feel like a full fledged “adult” yet.
“When I have outstanding debt that is accruing interest at 6.8 percent, adding something like $10 a day to my debt, I can’t think about long term savings when I’m a little deeper in the hole,” Deitz said.
Carr said young people viewing independence as something completely out of reach is frustrating, especially for people who feel they’ve done everything right and haven’t gotten where they want to be.
“It’s stopped me from sleeping, I get a lot sicker than I used to,” said Joseph Evaristo, 30, of East Brunswick.
There is one benefit to young people waiting, Carr said there is a huge amount of data that shows the older one Is when they first marry and have a child, the lower their rate of divorce is and the better their parenting skills are.
Carr noted it’s also important to understand the context for moving out and starting an “adult life.” While many baby boomers grew up in an age when children became independent and self-sufficient at 1 year old, Carr said historically that hasn’t been the case for very long.
“In the 19th centuries there were some time period where people would marry very late because you wouldn’t marry until you were the one in the family that owned the farm,” Carr said. “One way for the oldest son to inherit the farm was to wait until his father died or couldn’t work it anymore, so that notion that people always married young and bought houses right away that actually isn’t a huge part of American culture. It was a huge part of American culture in the 1950s and early 60s so we hold that up as the ideal, but in fact, there are plenty of historical blips that show that it’s not the case.”
(Video production by Toniann Antonelli)