First Comes Love, Then Came Millennials

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The Federal Reserve Gives Birth to a Rentership Nation

Let the bible belt come and save my soul
Holdin’ on to sixteen as long as you can
Change is coming ‘round real soon
Make us woman and man

    John Mellencamp, Jack & Diane 1982

We were blissfully oblivious to any double dip that didn’t involve ice cream. The idea of “recession,” to say nothing of one that put the economy into contraction not once, but twice, was the stuff of our parents’ stodgy Yuppie world. It couldn’t lay a finger on us. We were the MTV generation in our second summer of actualization, and we were just hitting our stride. Olivia Newton-John was getting Physicalwith us. Survivor’s The Eye of the Tiger had given us the thrill of the fight. We were all stars of the J. Geils Band’s Centerfold ground-breaking video (in our minds). Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll was our self-anointed anthem. And above all else, we were Jack & Diane and damn well going to hold on to 16 as long as we could.

As for the economy, pshaw double dip recessions! President Ronald Reagan is Gen-X’s hero. We’ll never look down on his time in the White House. We’re forgiving enough, on our parent’s behalf, to freeze our mind’s eye in the spring of 1981, when half of all Americans told Gallup they were optimistic about their economic future. Of course, it was not to last as 1981 turned into 1982. Even with all of that great music that indelibly marked our lives for good. By December 1982, the unemployment rate had hit a postwar peak of 10.8%, above even that of the Great Recession’s October 2009 peak of 10.0%.

And yet, somehow, we managed to get past the economic carnage, embracing our brave new world. Time Magazine’s man of the year was THE COMPUTER and Disney beckoned with its Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT. By the time we 1970 babies did turn 16, the future was so bright, we had to wear shades.

Globalization was also beginning to make its mark on our boomer parents. In 1975, imports represented 18% of the U.S. car market. By 1986, buoyed by a federal law that incentivized sales to record levels that year at the expense of 1987, imported car sales crested 3 million units, or 28% of the overall market. As for house and home, that same year, some 63.8% of Americans were homeowners, two percentage points below the recent 1980 peak of 65.8%. The homeownership rate would linger around that historic average level through the relatively mild 1990 recession, which came and went as we were graduating from college.


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Danielle DiMartino Booth is CEO and Director of Intelligence at Quill Intelligence

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