5 major differences between the lives of millennials and baby boomers

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  • Millennials, the generation now in their 20s and 30s, live very differently than their parents.
  • Compared to baby boomers, millennials are more likely to be health-conscious and more likely to want to live in big cities, among other key differences.
  • Here are some of the biggest differences between how the two generations live.

Millennials are America’s biggest generation, with 95 million members in their 20s and 30s.

They’re mostly the children of baby boomers – now America’s second largest generation. Yet millennials differ from their parents in several key ways, and the cohort is rewriting the rules for everything from marriage to employment to the food industry.

Here are five of the biggest ways millennials live differently than their parents’ generation.


Millennials are more happy in cities than in suburbs.

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Millennials are all about big city living and the cost of living that comes with it.

Educated millennials especially tend to move to more expensive urban centers. Unlike baby boomers and their parents, who migrated to the suburbs en masse, millennials find happiness in cities, according to a Regional Studies report. Larger, more urban environments offer millennials the perks of diversity, economic opportunities, entertainment, safety, and a feeling of status.

When baby boomers were in their 20s and 30s, on the other hand, they aspired more to live in suburban homes in smaller, pastoral regions. Today, millennials are the first generation to be more happy with urban life than rural life. Unlike baby boomers, they are least happy in places with fewer than 8,000 people. And millennials are the only generation that’s happier living in places with 250,000 or more people.


Millennials want to get more out of work.

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Compared to baby boomers, millennials are more motivated by their ability to make an impact wherever they work. According to a Global Report survey, 74% of millennial job candidates want a job where they feel like their work matters.

They also want the potential for growth and promotion: The Addison Group found that more than 67% of millennials want to reach manager status, compared to just 58% of the overall workforce. They’re also less afraid than previous generations to change jobs or work independently.

Baby boomers, meanwhile, are driven more by loyalty, and they’re more likely to work for the same company for long periods of time – a 2016 poll found 40% of boomers stayed with an employer for at least 20 years, and 18% stayed for 30 years or more.


Millennials are more health-conscious — and they’re driving tastes in the food industry.

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Millennials are more health-conscious consumers than their predecessors.

A 2013 Aetna poll found baby boomers were most likely to define “healthy” as not falling sick and being the proper weight for your height. Meanwhile, millennials were the more likely generation to consider good eating habits and physical activity in their definitions of healthy.

Millennials can be credited for several recent shifts in food preferences, including the rise of gluten-free, vegan, and all-natural options in the grocery aisle.

As the largest US age demographic, millennials are the key tastemakers in the food industry right now. More than ever, millennials are demanding transparency from the food industry, as well as sustainable food practices and locally sourced, natural options.


They have less money than their parents, and they’re slower to buy homes.

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In the last decade, the percentage of millennial homeowners and renters has steadily declined.

This may be due to the fact that as a whole, millennials have less money than their parents did at the same age. According to the Federal Reserve, millennials have lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth compared to baby boomers.

A study by the Pew Research Center found that “millennial households are earning more than previous generations did at their age nearly any time in the past 50 years.” So what does this mean? Overall, as individuals, millennials are making less money, but income for married couples (household incomes) is up.

When it comes to spending, millennials are slower to own homes than previous generations. Growing up through the evictions and foreclosure notices of the 2008 financial crisis, millennials spend more money than their predecessors on high rent prices and paying off student loans.

Research from a Charles Schwab report found that instead of mortgages, millennials are more likely to spend their paychecks on transportation like Ubers and Lyfts, coffee, gadgets, clothes, and live entertainment and sports.

But millennials are less likely to have money in the bank, as well. A 2015 GoBankingRates survey found that a majority of millennials have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and many have nothing at all.


And they’re putting off marriage.

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America’s youngest generations are less likely to marry during their 20s. Nearly 50% of baby boomers were married between the ages of 18 to 32, while a mere 26% of millennials are married in the same age range.

From 1970 to 2012, the U.S. marriage rate dropped 60% – from 74 annual marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women down to 31. The decline in marriage rates among millennials reflects a number of cultural and economical shifts, including the recession of the late 2000s. Other trends like the increase in women in the workforce and the decline in religiousness have also shaped millennials’ views of marriage.