Recession Causes Big Changes to Youth Attitudes

July 12, 2013

Young people are showing signs of being more interested in conserving resources than previous generations, according to an analysis of a long-term survey of high school students that shows how the recent economic downturn has reshaped youth attitudes.

Youth today are less interested in “big-ticket items such as vacation homes and new cars — though they still placed more importance on them than young people who were surveyed in the latter half of the 1970s, an era with its own economic challenges,” USA Today reports on the study.

In the study, researchers compared responses of high school seniors in three time periods — 1976-1978; 2004-2006; and 2008-2010. 

They found that youth today are less materialistic and more concerned about others than previous generations. 

Researchers also found that youth today who just went through the Great Recession are more interested in penny pinching. For example, they are more likely to turn the heat down to save energy (63 percent said in 2008-2010 period compared to 55 percent surveyed in the 2004-2006 period; however, 78 percent said they would in 1976 to 1978 period). Forty-one percent of high school seniors surveyed in 2008-2010 said it was important to own a vacation home compared to 46 percent in the 2004-2006 period, according to the survey. In 1976-1978, 34 percent of high school seniors said it was important to own a vacation home. 

The latest recession "has caused a lot of young people to stop in their tracks and think about what's important in life," says Jean Twenge, a co-author of the study and psychology professor at San Diego State University.

Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, which tracks youth trends, told USA Today that youth today are living in “millennial purgatory.” She explains that they’re unemployed or under-employed, working in jobs below their qualifications, and that many are still living at home with parents. 

But some say the hardship that today’s youth feels is only temporary. “People usually adapt to their surroundings and make decisions based on what is going on in the present, not in the past,” Monica Raofpur, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas,  told USA Today. 

Source: “Study: Youth attitudes shift in Great Recession,” USA Today (July 11, 2013)

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