By Courtney Hamilton
March 4, 2016
Caption : Despite media representations to the contrary, Millennials want many of the same things as their parents when it comes to economic security, marriage and family goals and home-owning aspirations—so says a new study by American University's Kogod School of Business. The problem, the study finds, is not that Millennials don't have the family goals of their parents, but with the soaring housing costs, long commutes, and excessively expensive child care native to urban areas like D.C., many Millennials find their aspirations out of reach.     

Despite media representations to the contrary, Millennials want many of the same things as their parents when it comes to economic security, marriage and family goals and home-owning aspirations—so says a new study by American University’s Kogod School of Business. The “Greater Washington Index: Millennials,” reveals that many Millennials clustered in the greater Washington D.C. area aspire to buy homes and start families.

The problem, the study finds, is not that Millennials don’t have the family goals of their parents, but with the soaring housing costs, long commutes, and excessively expensive child care native to urban areas like D.C., many Millennials find their aspirations out of reach.

“Millennials are now the largest segment in the United States workforce and their importance and influence will only grow in the coming decades, as they become the breadwinners, leaders and rising stars of the nation’s economy,” the study highlights. The demographic is notable for its high levels of education, ethnic diversity, and social responsibility ethics. The greater Washington D.C. area attracts Millennials at a 60 percent higher rate than the rest of the U.S., with many in the demographic valuing Washington’s many things to do, its parks and recreation, career opportunities and diverse population.

The study set out to answer two primary questions: What do Millennials want? Then, how does the greater Washington area measure up to their needs? Kogod School of Business surveyed 300 Millennials in five categories—Jobs, People, Amenities, Affordability and Career Options—calculating objective data to evaluate where Washington rises to Millennials’ expectations and where it’s lacking.

Washington exceeds Millennials expectations in all but one category: affordability. While Millennials prove to be a high-achieving demographic, and Washington offers a lifestyle amenable to such ambition, young people are characterized by stilted growth in ways their parents likely never experienced. Young people are delaying marriage, families, and home-ownership today more than ever due in part to economic pressures.

“While some see this [delay] as a sign that Millennials are avoiding responsibility, others note that these adults are making wise choices in a poor economic environment: high unemployment, low wages, steep student loan payments and a tight credit market,” the study notes.

In addition to affordability, Washington also comes with the drawbacks of high traffic congestion and crime. The three obstacles coalesce into what Kogod School of Business terms “The DC Dilemma.” For affordable, relatively safe areas, young residents will have to suffer a long commute. Millennial residents cannot typically afford both the assurance of a safe area and a short commute to work.

Ultimately, the study highlights where Millennials’ priorities lie. “Based on the media coverage of Millennials, one might expect the factors related to socializing, diversity and volunteering to be top-of-mind and critically important with this group. What the data shows, however, is that regardless of what Millennials want to do with their time and their lives, the age-old challenges of finding a job, paying bills, and trying to get ahead in a career still reign supreme,” the study says.

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