Here it is, a demographic tipping point. Millennials--whose ages range from 19-35--now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers, the youngest of whom is 52 and oldest, 70.
For those who've had enough of the term, and are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, analysts at Pew Research offer such a flicker of encouragement here:
With immigration adding more numbers to its group than any other, the Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million. Thereafter the oldest Millennial will be at least 56 years of age and mortality is projected to outweigh net immigration. By 2050 there will be a projected 79.2 million Millennials.
By then, perhaps, Boomers will have created demand for an all-new 75+ category of active lifestyle community, and GenNext young adults of the day may take to futon-surfing in sub-200 square foot colonies rented for five-hour time-slots providing that 24-hour period's dosage of privacy and reprieve.
Demography has given us constructs that go with birth-rate patterns, and our apparent need for narratives, generalization, and mental short-cuts give rise to this notion of cohorts. Then, starting with consultants and pounded into oblivion by the media, we coin words like Millennial to seize some form of information or knowledge edge. Add together sheer heft in population with shared attitudes, preferences, values, and behavior, and you can take that to the bank.
Some do, and some have done that, and that may be why we're all just mostly fatigued with words like Millennials and Baby Boomers at all.
Not to pick on anybody in particular, but look at this piece and try to keep a straight face as you get to the six "secret sauce" take-aways of the article, the "reasons millennials are moving to the suburbs."
- They get a better deal.
- They need more space.
- They want a yard for kids and dogs.
- They're close enough to city amenities.
- They don't work downtown or they can telecommute.
- They see potential for resale value.
Honestly? If you want to know what we're seeing more and more evidence of, it's that millennials' basic motivations and values are the same as any other "cohort" at the time they were coming of age as young workers, early in household formation, career, and family formation. It's that the data, networking, and tools with which they engage as consumers are so very different that has transformed this age wave into one that's entirely different than others before them.
The more sophisticated marketers in residential development are looking more at psychographics these days than demography. They're seeing that when it comes to design, location, pricing, amenities, and other features, what excites Boomers and Millennials are a lot of the same things. They're seeing lifestages, and big family events, and other psychographic circumstances as more helpful proxies than age-groupings.
The data, the networking, and the tools millennials bring to their decisions and choices around housing give you an opportunity, not to look at them through the lens of one generational cohort or another, but differently. Home builders have sway with this group in two very powerful ways. One, is that a home builder can lower the barrier-to-entry for such a prospect, whose use of data, networking, and tools has sparked interest.
Perhaps even more importantly, a home builder can ask that customer to transform him or herself into that person they aim to be--that homeowner person, who's more valuable in his or her own eyes, and smarter, and more capable, etc.
Focus on that, and the light at the end of the tunnel gets a lot closer than 2050.