Black millennials: Trapped under the weight of racism and a cash-poor economy

The ‘Peter Pan’ syndrome

Cory Alexander Haywood | 4/21/2017, midnight
Jerry Houston will be another year older in July, but he’s not planning a celebration for his 29th birthday. “There’s ...

“[The box is] a graveyard of broken dreams,” he joked. “And to top it all off, I’m still living with the woman who encouraged me to go to college. I’m almost 30 and I live with my grandmother because I can’t afford to buy my own home, and I don’t see the value of paying thousands to live in an apartment. When my birthday comes, the only thing I’ll wish for is a better job with more pay so I can get the hell out of a room that I’ve been sleeping in since I was five years old.”

Four years ago, Time magazine published a cover story called “The Me Me Me Generation—Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”

Time framed the millennials’ desperate search for stable work as a privileged character flaw—look at the kids too flaky to handle “choosing from a huge array of career options.”

In response to this scathing editorial, Quartz.com contributor Sarah Kendzior wrote:

“Millennials” have become both a media scapegoat for, and a distraction from, widespread economic suffering. Having experienced no economy other than the recession’s false recovery, young Americans have arguably suffered the most. The remedy lies not in judging their lifestyle choices—or worse yet, perpetuating the illusion that they have money to burn—but by acknowledging the new economy for what it is: a structural crisis, one that future generations will share. Millennials keep getting older, but their problems stay the same age.”

Kendzior and Time.com were referring to what psychologists describe as “emerging adulthood,” a new and possibly permanent life phase squeezed between the teen years and late 20s. This group has been unofficially called the “Peter Pan Generation,” because of their perceived failure to actually “grow up” and achieve full independence.

Two-thirds of people over 50 have financially supported a child 21 or older in the past five years, a Merrill Lynch study found last year. “Family dynamics are evolving,” says David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal-wealth solutions at Merrill Lynch. “Adults are living longer, people are retiring later, and millennials are making life choices vastly different than their parents did.”

Studying the same phenomenon, a 2013 Pew Research Center report shows even more startling figures: Among adults ages 40 to 59 with at least one grown child, 73 percent said they’d helped support an adult son or daughter in the prior year, writes Time.com contributor Dan Kadlec.

Half of those middle-aged parents said they were their grown child’s primary means of support—in some cases because their offspring were still in school but also, more than a third said, for reasons other than education. In another study, Pew found that nearly a quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds are now living with parents or grandparents, up from 11 percent in 1980. “It’s not at the margins,” says Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave, a consultant on the aging population. “It’s kind of everybody.”

A Time survey earlier this year found that 30 percent of parents helping to support grown children spend at least $5,000 a year on their kids. Because of this sacrifice, many more parents may have to settle for a less comfortable retirement than they had planned.