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The 10-Year Millennial Economic Slump : Education of Millennials

Numerous contradictory studies have attempted to profile the very diverse Millennial generation. Some data identifies them as big spenders adding to their debt with lifestyle products and so-called life experiences. Other studies suggest they are one of the best savers of any generation at this age. But like all generations, it’s inaccurate to place blanket labels on a generation that spans almost 20 years. Where most researchers and studies do concur is that many Millennials have been dealt an increasingly difficult economic hand.

Financial data has emerged which suggests there are three distinct segments to the Millennials based on their proximity to the Great Recession – (1) those that graduated college or entered the job market prior to the Great Recession, (2) those that entered the job market during the recession or during the post-recession high-unemployment recovery period, and (3) those entering after the economy was on its way to recovery. This is the first factoid in a series of three factoids that details these 3 different segments of Millennials in relation to education, finance and employment.


Those that entered the job market early, prior to the Recession, have definitely fared better than their younger Millennials. The second group hit a job market wall during the Great Recession and many have yet to recover as they took jobs unrelated to their college education at lower salaries. With the tightening of the job market, Millennials turned to colleges becoming the most educated generation in history.

29 percent of Millennial men and 36 percent of Millennial women completed at least a bachelor’s degree compared to just 15 percent of men and 9 percent of women 50 years ago. While the percentage has increased with for both sexes with each generation, women now exceed men as college graduates by 7 percent.

Some Millennials aren’t sure how much that education has helped them.  The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) tracks starting salaries by year of graduation and finds that 2004 through 2007, those early graduates averaged starting salaries of $42,619. Salaries in the second group graduating during the Great Recession and partial recovery, 2008 to 2011, averaged $41,607.  But as the recovery has moved forward, 2012 to 2016 (most current data), starting salaries jumped to an average of $48,169.

Source: Pew Research Center’s “How Millennials today compare with their grandparents 50 years ago,” March 16 2018; U.S. Census Bureau , Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC)

NACE, National Association of Colleges and Employees “Salary Survey Report”

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Fast Fact: Millennials Turned to Education During and Following Great Recession
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