Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Millennials Grow Colder on Capitalism - AdobeStock 254343675

Today, 18- to 34-year-olds are almost evenly divided on their views of capitalism. Just 49% see capitalism positively, while 46% see it negatively; the gap between the two has shrunk considerably in just two years. (Axios/Momentive)

NH: It’s no secret that Millennials are growing cold on capitalism. (See “Socialism is as Popular as Capitalism Among Young Millennials.”) And a recent poll by Axios and Momentive shows how this trend is intensifying.

According to the survey, 49% of 18- to 34-year-olds have a favorable view of capitalism, while 46% view it negatively. That’s only a 3 percentage point difference in positive versus negative views.

Two years ago, that gap was a whopping 20 percentage points (58% positive vs. 38% negative). Among older age brackets, a strong majority favor capitalism, and this margin hardly changed from 2019.  

The views of both the very youngest surveyed and young Republicans shifted the most. In 2019, 58% of 18- to 24-year-olds had a positive view of capitalism. Today, only 42% view it favorably.

That’s a 26 percentage point drop. As for young Republicans, in 2019, 88% had a positive view. Today, 66% view it favorably. That’s a 20 percentage point drop.

To be sure, a majority of young Republicans still see capitalism favorably. But clearly, young conservatives are growing dissatisfied with the system. The survey also found that the share of young Republicans who believe the government should work to reduce the wealth gap jumped from 40% in 2019 to 56% in 2021. 

So why do we see a steady rise in youth dissatisfaction with capitalism? 

Remember, Millennials have been hit by back-to-back recessions, a grueling gig economy, mounting debt (typically to fund their own education), and the disappearance of upward generational mobility. (See “Millennials Hit By Back-To-Back Recessions” and "Millennials Are Writing the Book on Burnout.")

Even more than older generations, a declining share of Millennials believe the system serves them at all. (See “Global Millennials: Down on Democracy and Drawn to Populism.”)

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Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.