Like the boomers before them, millennials attract lots of conventional wisdom. And much of it (like the items listed here) has the disadvantage of being false.
No. 1. Millennials Will Never Become Homeowners.
Not true! The notion has been that millennials will cluster in center cities, where their sharing-economy mentality and their financial challenges will combine to make them lifelong renters. The reality is that a large majority of the older millennials have already become homeowners. In a Navient survey in May, 71% of the 31- to 33-year-olds and the same percentage of those ages 34 to 35 already owned a house or condo. And many live in (gasp!) the suburbs. A December report by the Urban Land Institute noted that “contrary to popular perception and most media attention, three-quarters of 25- to 34-year-olds in the 50 largest metro areas live in the suburbs.”
No. 2. Besotted with Netflix and YouTube, millennials barely watch any traditional TV.
Not true! It is true that millennials (like most other age groups) are watching less traditional TV as digital alternatives proliferate. But they’re still watching plenty. eMarketer estimates that nearly nine in 10 millennials were at-least-monthly viewers of non-digital TV in 2016. Among these viewers, the 18- to 24-year-olds were averaging 2 hours 17 minutes per day at this pastime; the 25- to 34-year-olds were averaging 2 hours 50 minutes. The fact that millennials watch less TV than their elders—and the fact that their time spent with it is declining—does not mean traditional TV has ceased to be an important part of their media mix. Maybe someday. But not yet.
No. 4. With options like Pandora available, millennials have turned off non-digital radio.
Not true! They have certainly embraced digital alternatives. In a Vision Critical survey in March, 55% of the 22- to 36-year-olds reported subscribing to Pandora; 35% said the same about Spotify. YouTube has also developed into a major source of music for millennials. A Cowen and Company survey in May identified about eight in 10 millennial internet users as YouTube listeners. But this has not extinguished their usage of non-digital radio, even if (as with traditional TV) time spent with it is trending downward. In Nielsen’s Q2 tabulation of time spent with various media and devices, 18- to 24-year-olds were averaging 10 hours 24 minutes per week with AM/FM radio. The figure was even higher, at 11 hours 20 minutes, for 25- to 34-year-olds. They are tuning in less than their elders, but they have not tuned out.
No. 4. Maybe millenials haven’t actually quit Facebook, but most of their social-media activity has moved elsewhere.
True that they haven’t quit Facebook; not true that it has become a vestigial part of their social line-up. When a Buzz Marketing Group survey in October asked millennials to list their daily media activities, 85% included “post or read posts on Facebook.” When a Fluent survey in August asked millennials to identify their primary social platform, Facebook was tops with the 18-to-24, 25-to-29 and 30-to-34 subgroups, especially the older ones. In an August survey by Cowen and Company, more than eight in 10 millennial Facebookers reported using it daily. In Roth Capital Partners polling in September, Facebook was the social platform millennial mothers said they use most frequently. (Do you really need us to keep going with the stats???) Part of the reason for its resilient presence among millennials is that it serves multiple purposes for them. When the Buzz Marketing Group survey asked millennials to cite channels from which they get their news, Facebook (cited by 73%) ranked just behind TV and well ahead of friends, newspapers and other sources. In an Influenster survey in June among female social users, Facebook topped the list of social sites through which respondents planned to stay updated about the Summer Olympics. And then there’s video: In a UBS Evidence Lab survey in June, a bit over half of Facebook-using millennials cited it as a platform where they view video daily. That same month, polling by Sharethrough among 18- to 20-year-olds found Facebook tied with YouTube as the top social platform used for viewing mobile video content. None of this makes it sound as though millennials’ Facebook usage has become perfunctory, does it?
No. 5. Marketing emails sent to millennials always go unread.
Not true—though if you said “very often” rather than “always,” it would be closer to the mark. An October survey by Fluent asked 18- to 29-year-olds to say how often they find the marketing emails they receive “to be useful.” Twelve percent said “always” (!) and 13% said “frequently,” while a more grudging 30% said “sometimes.” As for the frequency with which they open marketing emails, 18% said they do so always, 12% frequently and 26% sometimes. An Adestra survey in February found some millennials even do marketers the favor of sharing such emails. Among that survey’s 19- to 34-year-olds, 10% said they were “very likely” to do this and 15% “somewhat likely.”
No. 6. Getting married will never be standard procedure for millennials.
Not true! Actually, one can see why this did seem true when millennials as a group were younger and the Great Recession was tamping down any inclination to form family households. As a group, they have delayed getting married and may well never catch up with prior generations. But Census Bureau data for 2016 shows that the percentage of millennials who have never married tapers off sharply as they get into their 30s. Thus, while 62.2% of the 25- to 29-year-olds had never married, this was true for just 38.6% of the 30- to 34-year-olds. In the slightly millennial 35-to-39 cohort, the figure was 24.1%. Whether all of this prefigures divorce as standard procedure for millennials remains to be seen.