Millennials didn’t kill the economy — but it’s certainly killing them

Elizabeth Carlton
4 min readApr 6, 2021

Blue Cross Blue Shield’s (BCBS) Millennial health report shows a continual decline in Millennial health starting at age 27, with the top three health concerns falling within the realm of mental or behavioral health: major depression, substance use disorder and alcohol abuse. In fact, BCBS reveals that nearly one-third of Millenials have a behavioral health condition and “rates are rising by double digits.”

But before you pin Millennials as the victim of their own self-destructive behaviors and blame them for the death of everything older generations have held dear over the last decade, let’s take an honest look at the economic backdrop that set this generation up—and why it’s essentially killing this so-called “new Lost Generation.”

A quick recap of Millennials’ early struggles

There are innumerable articles over the years covering this very subject, so let me condense the early hurdles and setbacks that led to Millennials’ present state into a bulleted list:

  • After adjusting for inflation, the average price tag for a public four-year college education for Millennials ($19,189) exceeded two-and-a-half times the price tag of a four-year college education when the oldest of the Baby Boomer generation began their college experience in 1964 ($7,256). This increase is even higher for private four-year institutions where Millennials average $39,529 in dues vs. Boomers’ average of $14,618 (AARP).
  • Many of these Millennials graduated into the peak of the Recession (the greatest economic dive since the Great Depression), making it difficult to find well-paying jobs, if they could find a job at all. Millennials saw the highest unemployment rate during the Recession as it rose from 10.8 percent in November 2007 to 19.5 percent in April 2010 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Between the years 2005 and 2013, Millennials lost approximately 13% of their earnings due to the Recession. Comparatively, Gen X suffered a 9% loss and Boomers 7% (Washington Post).
  • Facing the Recession while saddled with high student loan debt, rising costs of living and stagnant wages led to significant financial challenges that triggered long-term setbacks for Millennials. Research shows Millennials compared to other generations are “less well off” than their predecessors were at their age with lower earnings, less wealth, and fewer assets (Federal Reserve). This has led to delayed milestones, such as buying a house or a car, getting married, and having children (Bankrate).
  • Additionally, the scarcity of employers benefits and socialized programs Boomers benefit from leave younger generations like Millennials with little-to-no safety net. Social security will provide “less than relative pre-retirement savings”, their 401k retirements are meager compared to their predecessors due to early financial challenges, and half of the private sector fails to offer retirement plans. (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College). Additionally, many Millennials can’t afford health insurance and/or don’t have access to employee coverage (
  • Millennials adopted “gigs” to provide or supplement their income, but it didn’t offer a solid bridge across the financial gap. The so-called “gig economy” became a popular option for Millennials during the recession when income was scarce. From 2003 to 2015, the percentage of Millennials receiving an individual income from “gig work” rose from 57% to 72%. Reportedly, the majority of this increase occurred during the Recession (2007-2008) when nearly 14% of Millennials were unemployed. However, the income contracted from these gigs lagged behind that of full-time employees (The Wall Street Journal).

Fast-forward to 2020–2021: Millennials face their second once-in-a-lifetime recession

Age-wise, Millennials should be entering the peak of their careers in regards to earnings. But once again the odds stack against them as they enter a second recession triggered by COVID-19 — and they’re doing so in a state of vulnerability.

Millennials dominate multiple industries impacted by the pandemic, including beauty salons (41%), bars (59%) and brick and mortar retail like general merchandising stores (43%), beer, wine and liquor stores (43%), clothing stores (48%), restaurants/food service (49%), shoe stores (50%), and electronics stores (55%) (Business Insider). Many of these jobs offer lower income salaries ranging on average between $20,983 to $39,405 a year. They also represent a significant portion of individuals who depend on the gig economy for financial income(Gig Economy Data Hub).

While the long-term effects are difficult to predict while we remain in the midst of the pandemic, this additional hurdle poses a significant threat to the long-term wellbeing of a generation still feeling the impact of the previous Recession.

What will the future look like for Millennials — and can they bounce back?

I don’t know the answer, but in wake of the backdrop of a generation that remains financially fragile, sorely underpaid, and weighted by debt and the lack of savings or benefits that offer a sense of security, I fear it won’t be pretty.

Already, we see the echoes of the impact the last recession has had upon the Millennials, whose health is declining faster than their predecessors. The same BCBS health report cited at the beginning of this article projects that without proper treatment and management, Millennials’ morbidity rate may scale up to be 40% higher than Gen X when they were at their age. Additionally, the amount of deaths of despair (deaths related to drugs, alcohol or suicide) have increased, accounting for 36,000 U.S. Millennial deaths in 2017 alone. These deaths have been linked, in part, to financial problems such as student-loan debt, healthcare, childcare, and a the high costs of the housing market (

Simply put: it’s a crisis.

Despite this generation’s efforts to innovate, climb and scrape their way upward toward stability, the turbulence of the economy continues to place hurdles before them. I just can’t help but wonder: will the impact of today’s pandemic eventually prove to be a hurdle too high to climb?



Elizabeth Carlton

Author of The Rogue Trilogy | 16+ years of professional writing experience spanning journalism, SEO, marketing, research and fiction |