The recession has changed everything for Gen Y. While we continue to embrace idealism, meaningful change is much harder.
And while young people have the best intentions to be part of the communities we live in, we’re being challenged by a number of conflicting events that contribute to a lack of involvement in local community.
For starters, disillusionment towards faith and religion has forced the institution to turn its reign over to Facebook as chief community builder. And despite the fact that our social circles are shrinking and loneliness is increasing, we choose where we live, in part, by how easy it is for us to maintain our quasi-anonymity.
Our friends “move in the same circles we do and are exposed to the same information. To get new information we have to activate our weak ties,” Albert-Laszlo Barabasi explains in his book Linked (via Valeria Maltoni).
So all of our Facebook and Twitter friends (those weak ties) are actually “critical to the creative environment of a city” sociologist Richard Florida reports, “because they allow for rapid entry of new people and rapid absorption of new ideas.”
Life and community, my friends, just isn’t the same. And nowhere is this so obvious, in-your-face and damning than the current alarm of the real estate market.
Before the economy collapsed, young people were being locked out of the housing market by astronomical housing prices and by our predecessors, Generation X and the Baby Boomers, who grew even richer.
Now that the housing market has collapsed, it means more young people are content with not owning a home. But as the prevailing American sentiment goes, if you don’t own something, you don’t have a stake in the future of our country. Young people don’t buy that. Literally.
Ownership is an antiquated belief belonging to another generation. Gen Y abandons ownership. Instead, today’s young people subscribe to a culture of services and leasing.
We subscribe to services that allow our lives to be easier – Peapod, Mint, Netflix, Pandora, Alice, and ZipCar to name a few. More and more individuals do this in order to pay less, acquire more, and change whenever the desire hits.
“Owning a car used to be the key to freedom,” one millennial marketer argues. “But now younger generations are seeing car ownership as a liability that ties them down.”
And being tied down is the last thing the transient Gen Yer wants. “Ownreports. “Even in the best of times, the costs and hassle of selling one home and buying another — one estimate put the average cost of a house move at more than $60,000 — tend to make workers reluctant to go where the jobs are.”
ing a home also ties workers down,” NY Times columnist Paul Krugman
That’s cool with Gen Y because we plan to move in a month or two for that tech job, relish inner-city downtown life, or can’t see the sense in purchasing a home when we’re going overseas in June to work at a NGO anyway.
“Houses simply do not fit in very well with the demands for flexibility, mobility and continuous innovation in the creative economy,” Florida reports. “They cost a lot and suck up a ton of capital. They are energy sinks and most people and families don’t use or need all that space. They’re environmental disasters. There is a growing body of economics research which suggests home ownership is associated with lower rates of productivity, lower incomes, and higher rates of unemployment.”
Gen Y will certainly grow up at some point, make commitments, have a family and settle down – indeed, research shows that is our every intention. But we are doing so at a later age, and by then, it may be too late and the world too different for local community to thrive.
What do you think? Will the housing crisis and Gen Y’s attitude towards ownership change community forever? And if you don’t own a home and aren’t connected to any particular institution, will you have any reason to contribute to the local community? Does it matter?