Brexit to the Millennials – Uppercut to the Jaw

Posted On July 26, 2016

When Great Britain voted to leave the European Union last month, an issue known globally by the mashup term Brexit, generational politics and preferences played a huge role in the result.

Younger people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, while older voters largely opted out. According to polling cited by Time, less than 20 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 supported Brexit, while nearly 60 percent of those old enough to receive pensions were in favor.

According to the Telegraph, Brexit’s passage was due in large part to high turnout among those older voters in favor of leaving and low turnout in areas like Scotland and London where sentiment was largely against the measure.

It’s easy to see how views might differ between Baby Boomers who grew up with the nationalism of the post-war era and millennials who have come up in a global economy. Time made the point, however, that the Boomers have essentially determined British millennials’ economic futures for them.

A recent report by the British think tank Resolution Foundation found that those futures weren’t looking all that rosy to begin with.

The report, titled “Stagnation Generation,” found that a typical millennial in Great Britain will earn about 8,000 pounds (just over $10,000) less during his 20s than members of Generation X did in their 20s, that Baby Boomers were 50 percent more likely to own a home by age 30 than millennials, and that UK tax and welfare plans already in effect will squeeze 1.7 billion pounds out of millennials over the next four years and hand 1.2 billion pounds to Baby Boomers in the form of entitlements.

How Brexit will affect the British economy in the long term remains to be seen, but these figures measure trends that were already in effect before the vote. “No doubt some of these strains on the intergenerational contract are short-term in their nature and will unwind naturally over time,” the Resolution Foundation’s Laura Gardiner surmised in a summary of the report, “but there is a sense that many of them run deeper.”

What does any of this mean for millennials in the U.S.? Nothing, necessarily. But it is not an overly large leap of logic to assume that at least some of the economic trends in one Western, industrialized nation might not be that dissimilar from other Western, industrialized countries.

Those who believe the traits and attitudes of millennials are more a result of economic pressures than any innate shortcomings or some sort of technology-driven attention deficit disorder may have just gotten some more ammo.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials, Generations, Wealth