Editor's Note: Anyone who has read his work can attest that Hedgeye demography guru Neil Howe is one of the brightest bulbs out there. In the brief bullets below, the man who coined the term "millennials" cuts through recent news headline noise and shares some observations on topics people are talking about across America.
North Dakota’s Gen-X population rose 7.7% from 2010 to 2016, the biggest Xer increase of any state. With robust job growth thanks to a booming oil and gas industry, North Dakota is a natural fit for Xers looking to grow their balance sheets. (AOL)
- NH: The oil industry was a bust through most of the Gen-X coming-of-age years. Which is why, when the fracking boom started after the GFC, there was a gaping generation gap between older Boomer toolpushers, treaters, and prospectors (who got into the industry during the '70s boom) and the Millennial worms and newbies. (See: "The Changing Face of Oil and Gas.") Interestingly, the subsequent tight-oil boom has filled the gap. It has done more to attract Xers in their late 30s and 40s to faraway locales (like North Dakota's Bakken field) than to attract Millennials in their 20s. Derring-do Ice Road Truckers-like jobs, even if they do pay $100K+, just aren't the Millennial style. BTW, the three next-fastest states for Gen-X growth from 2010 to 2016 (second, third, and fourth place) are all in the sunbelt: Florida, Texas, and South Carolina, respectively. The fifth-fastest, Montana, is another Bakken-field state.
Modular home builder MODS International is selling on Amazon a tiny home fashioned out of a 320-square-foot shipping container. Such products are a testament to Millennials, who have been known to skimp on personal space in favor of cost savings. (Curbed)
- Neil Howe: Thanks to the ebbing of global trade, the price of a standard shipping container (8'x8.5'x20') has been plummeting. And thanks to a huge influx of Millennials into core urban areas--plus zoning codes and anti-growth regs backed by property owners--rents have been soaring. Natural solution for a youth generation strapped for cash, unfazed by small quarters (see: "Micro-apartments are a Macro Hit"), and accustomed to high density living? Transform these boxes into housing units. See new shipping-box communities in Seattle ("Cargotown"), New York City (where they stack 'em high), and Phoenix ("Containers on Grand"). At the low "favela" end, take a look at Oakland's "cargotopia," where a Millennial entrepreneur is buying $2,000 boxes and renting them out for $1,000/month--still much cheaper than any apartment in San Francisco.
Ski resorts are experiencing a troubling trend: More Boomers are retiring from the slopes and fewer Millennials are taking their place. While Boomers don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars on a ski resort getaway, cost-conscious Millennials eschew luxury resorts in favor of cheaper, more inclusive getaways. (Steamboat Pilot & Today)
- NH: I've worked with the ski-resort industry--and yes, it's facing serious generational challenges. The Boomers who fueled the industry's growth for decades--first as young adults and then as midlife parents--have aged out. Midlife Xers (a) are smaller in number, (b) have less disposable income to burn on a very expensive pastime, and (c) tend to avoid leisure activities in which the ratio of fun to money, lessons, lore, and practice is very low. (Golf, hunting, and boating also fall into this category.) What's more, Xers include a large share of nonwhite immigrants, who just don't get the WASP fascination with the frigid wilderness. On the plus side (IMO), X-treme sports like snowboarding are fading in popularity. To the extent Millennials do take to the slopes, they are tending more to emulate Boomers, not Xers, and take ski lessons.
Contributor Ada Calhoun outlines the “new midlife crisis” for Gen-X women. She make several solid points: Xer women have more opportunities for professional growth than previous generations, but have been hit harder by financial pressures in their prime breadwinning years. (Oprah.com)
- NH: This is a great essay, but also a brutal read. I warn any female between 45 and 55 not to read this on a down day. Back in the 1970s, for Gail Sheehy and the women of the Silent Generation, the "midlife passage" was about claustrophobia, that is, secure affluence without any options for taking risks or making choices. Today, for Gen-X women, it is more like agoraphobia: no security, affluence under siege, and a haunting sense that you have made a lot of big choices and that they've mostly been mistakes. Calhoun quotes one therapist: "In midlife, what I see in my Gen-X patients is total exhaustion. That's what brings them to treatment. They feel guilty for complaining because it's wonderful to have had choices that our mothers didn't have, but choices don't make life easier. Possibilities create pressure."
A new paper suggests that declining U.S. male labor force participation is a supply problem brought on by a rise in inactive prime-age men. Compared to previous generations, Xer and Millennial men have fewer qualms about being out of the labor force if they have another reliable source of income, such as a working spouse or a parent or a public benefit. (George Mason University)
- NH: This research has direct implications for wage trends (and yes, Chairman Yellen may be listening). It suggests that we may be very close to maximal labor market tightness. The main demo that remains beneath its pre-2008 employment-to-population ratio is prime age (25-54) males. And, excluding the small share of unemployed, there is no realistic prospect that many nonworking men in this "inactive" demo will go back to work anytime soon. Less than 15% say they even "may" want to return to work. Overall, among prime-age male inactives, roughly 30% say they don't work because they are taking care of the household, retired, or in school; another 60% say they are disabled. The disabled are disproportionately noncollege, and most are on painkillers (at least one-third on opioids). Roughly 75% live in a household where at least one member is receiving a federal or state cash or noncash transfer. Many are on SSDI, whose average benefit is about the same as a full-time minimum-wage worker after taxes. (And SSDI comes with Medicare.) Hispanics are disproportionately less likely than white or black non-Hispanics to say they are disabled, presumably because a large share of Hispanic immigrants are not eligible for SSDI.