Recently in my upper middle-class suburban bedroom community, a housing developer proposed building a multi-story high-density apartment complex including mixed uses like restaurants and shopping.
Even though the proposal was clearly out of place for the community, it was largely justified by market research stating that millennials would be a prime target for this development, and that the millennial market requires this type of housing. Along with the developer's internal research, other millennial housing-trend studies and national land planning studies were cited as the ‘be all - end all’ way of the future. The market research promoted in the studies suggests quite a few falsities revolving around a detrimental misunderstanding of millennial trends. Marketers and researchers are not asking the right questions. They are seeing trends based on spending and living habits, but are not considering why those trends exist, and if other habits would prevail if there were other options available.
The developer cited over-simplified talking points that millennials want to live in apartments because they don’t want commitment and they want to stay single. As a millennial who was married by the time I turned 24, I found these statements offensive and inaccurate. I began to research the family-life vs. single-life discussion because I wanted to analyze the data to see if my family-life mentality was a fringe way of thinking in my generation.
So, I conducted a national survey. According to the survey of 1,000 millennials (ages 18 to 33 in 2016): 29 percent are currently married and 52 percent desire to marry in the future. Of the 52 percent desiring marriage in the future, 15 percent wish they were already married, 27 percent desire to be married within two years, and 23 percent desire to be married between 2-4 years. Overall, only 14 percent do not ever want kids.
Basically, more than 80 percent of millennials desire marriage, and even more desire children. This is important data, because - aside from age sub-categories - millennials are separated into two sub-categories based on whether or not they want to be married.
Even though the strong majority of us desire marriage, it is different than previous generations. For those of us who desire marriage, we want to establish our own identities first. This means we are waiting longer to get married and have kids. Some of the reason is based on pure desire but there are other economic and societal factors to consider, which I discuss in my book.
Many of us still are hoping for the American Dream, or some variation of it at least. Most of us don’t see ourselves hopping from apartment to apartment with a spouse and three kids in tow. Of course, based on life circumstances, some of us have turned off the idea of marriage and family. Some are more interested in devoting time to a passion or a career. Some simply want to be young forever and live a single-person lifestyle of independence.