Economy

Millennials and Capitalism Just Don't Mix

Data show rising dissatisfaction with economic status quo.

Photo Credit: Monster Ztudio/ Shutterstock.com

Millennials have a reputation for being technology-savvy and independent-minded. But recent reports indicate that one thing they’re not are capitalists.

A new Fast Company article presents 2016 data from the Harvard Institute of Politics indicating “19% of Americans aged 18 to 29 identified themselves as capitalists; only 42% claimed they support the economic system.”

The fact that less than a quarter of young Americans acknowledge being capitalists serves as a reflection of dissatisfaction with the state of the country, both economically and with the people making the policies.

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In an interview with Fast Company in the fall, economist Richard Wolff commented on the desire to move away from the status quo, largely led by millennials.

“The sheer beauty of this is that nothing fuels this movement more than capitalism’s own troubles, and the displeasure, disaffection, and anxiety it produces,” Wolff said.

Fast Company attributes the economic concerns and disappointments young Americans feel to a combination of factors, including just starting to seek employment concurrently or shortly after the Great Recession. There are also staggering data around actual earnings, as Fast Company reports: “The median earnings of millennials in 2013 were 43% lower than someone who was their age and working in 1995.”

The mean wage remains below what it was before the economic collapse in 2008. These numbers also go hand-in-hand with the wildly high student debt facing many Americans.

The political landscape is even less promising. From the rise of Donald Trump and the excess and exploitation of capitalism from which he’s benefited, to the GOP tax bill, young Americans are concerned about the future. According to December 2017 data from Harvard’s Institute of Politics, 67% of 18- to 29-year-olds are “more fearful than hopeful about America’s future.”

These concerns, and the questioning of the economic status quo, are reflected in recent polling. As Fast Company explains, “the popularity of capitalism and socialism is neck-and-neck among younger Americans, while older generations are still distrusting of socialism.”

The popularity of candidates like Bernie Sanders and the success seen by the Democratic Socialists of America in recent elections is also an indication that millennials want politicians to represent their political and economic values.

H/T Fast Company

Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.