October 31, 2014

Millennials reversing the trend of being a transplant during one's 20s

With gloomier job and housing prospects facing the most sheltered generation in world history, the Millennials are becoming "boomerang kids" who leave for four years of goofing off at college, and return home for their 20s, maybe longer.

One unnoticed but important side-effect of this shift is that they won't be contributing to the transplant phenomenon as much as earlier generations did during the same stage in life.

The General Social Survey asks questions about what region of the country you were living in at age 16, and where you're living at the time of the survey. I created a transplant variable that looks for a mismatch between the two answers, and looked at age and cohort patterns.

Cohorts are five years long, and the age group was 23 to 29, in order to make sure they were out of their college years. Only whites were studied, as races show different migration patterns, and sample sizes are not very large for non-white groups when restricted to such a narrow age range across multiple cohorts.

The eight cohorts within Boomers (1945-64) and X-ers (1965-84) were all nearly 20% likely to be a transplant during their post-college 20s. With the '85-'89 births, there's a sudden drop to 12%, cutting their chances in half. The results do not depend on whether you look at people who didn't go to college, or those who had at least one year of college.

The recession is a non-starter: many other generations faced recessions during their 20s, yet didn't hang around their home region (let alone their home). The sudden drop suggests that a clear breaking point has been reached for the broader socioeconomic structure, like the higher ed, job, and real estate markets, not simply recession or no-recession. Presumably those born in the '90s will be even less likely to bother chasing fame and fortune by leaving behind their native region.

Massive, unregulated, me-first migration patterns not only dislocate individuals from the social networks that they're most attached to, they destabilize the broader ecosystem -- both where they came from, which is losing natives and their native ways, as well as where they're moving to, which cannot cope with such an influx of outsiders and their outside ways.

Not that Millennial strivers wouldn't love to play their part in the transplant royal rumble -- they're simply less able to make it happen, being even more unprepared for real life than those who came before them, and with so many of the spots already taken up. Perhaps they'll rationalize the situation they've been forced into, and come to prefer living in the same general region that they grew up in. And perhaps they'll pass along this attitude and received wisdom to the generation after them.

The great big transplant shoving match may therefore come to an end, not by consciousness raising but by over-saturation.

GSS variables: regtrans (created from reg16 and region), cohort, age, race, educ


  1. off-topic, here's an interesting article I found by chance delineating Gen Y and Gen X:

    "Throughout the boom years of the 1990s, we monitored, measured,
    and documented the shift from Generation X to Generation Y. The
    90s were to Gen Y what the late 70s and early 80s were to Gen X. So
    we were able to see changes in attitude and behavior among the
    youngest Gen Yers even when they were just teenagers trickling
    into the workplace. The workplace of the 90s was plentiful with
    opportunity. Unlike today, back then legions of older more
    experienced workers were not competing with teenagers for entry
    level jobs in retail and food service. The boundless optimism and
    self-confidence of Gen Yers in their teenage years, especially their enthusiasm for institutions, was in marked contrast to the cynical
    loaner ethos of Generation X."


  2. Per the topic, I don't think there's been a philosophical change in Millenials. A guidance counselor once told me it was very common for students to ask him how to get a job overseas.

  3. That's what I mean -- there doesn't have to be a philosophical change, if the socioeconomic conditions can no longer support their first choice of heading off to whatever city they consider the hippest, bleeding more than half their income on rent just to live with housemates, and indulging in the awesomeness of their adopted city.

    Employment rates for teenagers and college-aged kids reflect the cocooning cycle, not the inequality cycle. Here's a post with data from 20-24 year-olds, and an image showing data for 16-19 year-olds.



    In both cases, employment fell through the '40s and '50s, rose from the '60s through the '80s, and fell off again from the '90s to today.

    There are also shorter cycles around the longer cycles, so perhaps that's what the author means. There was falling employment during the late '80s / early '90s, then picked up again. But that wasn't a generational shift. The overall trend has been downward since the '90s, due to the cocooning of young people and over-parenting practices that lock them up all day long, and only allow them outside if the activity will contribute to their college application.

  4. The '90s also saw the beginning of compulsory unpaid child labor, I mean community service requirements to graduate high school. I just looked up the district where I went to high school, and they now require 75 hours -- I think it was 40 in the late '90s... no higher than 60.

    Did the Silents and Boomers, whose organizations are the direct beneficiaries of all this unpaid "volunteer" labor, have to donate so much of their time and effort when they were in high school? Of course not -- they worked at the local department store, not a government-supported non-profit, and they got paid.

    Their lust for wealth and status truly knows no bounds, that they would launch so many offensives to widen inequality between the older and younger generations, including their own children. Mommy needs to keep her sinecure at the non-profit, so you kids are just going to have to learn some responsibility and work for me, I mean for our community, for free.

  5. I'm from Upstate NY and am a transplant in NYC. I'm Generation Xer just like Agnostic.

    I never feel comfortable living down here and tend to hate the City after a while. I've left twice already during my 13-year career: once to work overseas for two years, and once to move back home for a few years and work remotely.

    Whenever I go back home I just feel more settled. I have my family incl. dog that I can hang with and my high school friends. But more importantly, I know the area inside and out and just feel a part of it. The local but good restaurants, the swamps where I would duck hunt, the lakes where I would fish, the parks where I would hike, the parking lot where I lost my virginity. I don't know if Agnostic feels the same way about his upbringing in Maryland, but I bet he does.

    There is no community for me in NYC. And that just makes me feel empty and not want to live there. Unfortunately I make at least 5x as much living and working in NYC versus back home.

    Half of my friends in high school and all of my friends in college are transplants in one city or another, and now we all live far apart from each other. It crushes me that a close buddy from college with whom I've shared so much basically drops off the face of the earth because we're in a different city.

    The thing is, if I were to do it over again, I'd still probably leave my hometown, go to a college in a different state, work far away from home and also overseas. I've always chased the money, which brings you security, but not happiness. Happiness is having your family, friends, community and church right there and you can see them at any time. We're all still tribal, I don't care what anyone says to the contrary.

  6. At least Gen Y got to squeak through before mandatory unpaid community service / internships in *college*. The Silents and Boomers who are the college administrators, organization executives, and parents figure that, hey, college has become high school: the sequel, so why not pile on some more unpaid "community" service requirements?

    I mean, it's hardly fair for the students to get their piece of paper from a degree mill for a measly $40,000 of debt -- they should have to serve it too, for free!

    BTW, I wonder if we'll see a change in parental attitudes toward compulsory unpaid labor now that it's increasingly Gen X parents whose kids are in high school. They aren't as shamelessly wealth-lusting as the Boomers, and they see through all the phony crap about serving the community, i.e. propping up non-profit sinecures. They are also way more sensitive to how hard their kids are going to have it financially into their future, and would want them to earn and save a little before they graduate college.

    That's one generational fault-line where the Gen X-ers have more leverage than the Boomers and Silents -- it's their kids, and their money (or their loans) that are supporting the higher ed bubble. If they don't share the Boomers' attitudes toward unpaid child labor, they can make the administration hurt.

  7. Well said DdR. I do feel connected to Maryland, as well as the Columbus suburb where I grew up during elementary school. I actually have a greater attachment there, despite not having lived there since 1992, because that's the area where most of my family has always lived.

    Plus my memories of that place are all from the '80s and early '90s, so they're untainted by associations with the cocooning climate that followed. It gives me rose-tinted glasses, compared to my schoolmates who've lived there continually, but every community needs one of those nostalgic home-comers.

    Having to play the role of surrogate father to my nephew this summer at home, while my brother had to work back in the mountain states, really woke me up to how fragile a person's support network is when they're so distant from family. So now my main goal is to corral all of us back toward the same area, where we can all be a part of each other's lives. And where we'll be near our extended family back in Ohio.

    Fortunately my brothers and I have sobered up about the status-striving game, and I don't think they'll be hard to convince to put family and community above chasing illusory "career goals," beyond making a living and saving.

  8. "So now my main goal is to corral all of us back toward the same area, where we can all be a part of each other's lives. And where we'll be near our extended family back in Ohio."

    That is a laudable goal, and I wish you the best of luck.

    By the way, I visited a buddy a few times in Columbus (Ohio I presume), and it shocked me how nice and liveable that city is. Great city market, good restaurants and bars, bike trails everywhere, the river running through the city, big enough that there's stuff to do but small enough that you can have a comfortable life. My hometown of Rochester has all the same attributes but has failed to achieve that synergy that Columbus has.

  9. ever heard of "trunk or treat"?

  10. "they see through all the phony crap about serving the community, i.e. propping up non-profit sinecures.'

    Great point. In the more sincere, equitable culture of the 30's-70's you probably didn't see so much ostentatious effort towards 'showing' how much you care. People back then had enough good faith in their fellow man that they didn't bludgeon each other with overwrought, cynical platitudes.

    Now that so many Me generation types are firmly entrenched in high places they put up a facade of benevolence and generosity to keep up appearances while they refuse to lay down the scepter as the plunder piles ever higher.

    By the way, I've just about given up on debating Boomers about status, who's got it and how they got it. The stock response is, "hey, they earned it, didn't they? 'You're just jealous, get off your butt and lay off those hard workers'." Though they don't really have a response when you tell them that the wealthy were much more modest in the 30's-70's.

    The fact that no human being with a sense of shame should ever want to have so much when it surely comes at the expense of the rest of us never dawns on them.


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