Recently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study about the differences between how Millennials and GenX spend their time differently. The study compared these two generations when they were 23-38 years old – so Millennials in the year 2019 and GenX in 2003. From a demographics standpoint, there were some variances, but nothing too overpowering that would create a massive difference in the study. The split between men and women were about the same, ethnic mix and percent of full-time and part-time were all similar.
Of course where some of the difference started to come in is – you guessed it, Millennials are getting married later and having kids later. 56% of Millennials do not own a house or have kids, whereas GenX that percent is flipped. Millennials are more educated with over 44% having at least a Bachelor’s Degree vs. only 33% of GenX. This would be why the data is showing GenX women are more likely to do housework, care for children, read for pleasure and do lawn work than Millennial women.
What I was surprised to see is the lawn care? I always thought if we were to gender stereotype work around the house, lawn care fell under the male domain no? At least in my house growing up it did. When I was growing up my brother and I had a list of chores we were responsible for to earn our weekly allowance – which was five dollars by the way. During the summer months, this list turned into a whole page on a yellow legal pad because we had extra time since we were out of school.
But this list was usually split up and allocated based on gender roles. My brother would be responsible for things like mowing the lawn and taking out the trash whereas I would be in charge of dusting, cleaning the dishes and gathering the vegetables from the garden. So much so that to this day, I have never once mowed a lawn – or shoveled snow. Cuz growing up, these were man jobs. But can I pick some green beans, you betcha. Which by the way – if you have a garden, depending on how you look at it, green beans are the best or the worst. They’re the best because you get a lot of them and they grow really fast. So if you love green beans – you’ll have more than you know what to do with. On the flipside, they require constant picking and you’ll have more than you know what to do with. Similar to peaches, which we found out when we had a peach tree and every other year we had hundreds of peaches. To the point where my mom was making peach pies and just giving them away to get rid of them.
Chores and earning our money is something I’m wondering if it will be such a priority for the next generation. I grew up in a house where you earned every penny. And if you borrowed money, you paid it back. We weren’t spoiled, we appreciated the value of a dollar and I’m really grateful for that. I couldn’t wait to get into the workforce so I could make more money and buy what I wanted with it – cuz you know that five dollar a week allowance wasn’t getting me that far – but then again, I could fill up my Mitsubishi eclipse tank for eight dollars. I also have always had an independent streak so getting my own job was a way to not have to answer to my parents – well at least on my money.
Both generations spend the same amount of time working, and men tend to work more as females are more likely to work part-time as their male counterparts. I don’t know if this stat is good or bad. A part of me wishes we figured out how to work less, and it reeks of the continued inequality in household duties we’ve discussed in the past on this podcast. But I guess we also aren’t working more hours – even though sometimes it feels like it.
I think the difference here is what we are doing. Millennials tend to lean into more purpose-driven work and aren’t as willing as our older cohorts to accept injustices of corporate America. Additionally, we are less likely to stay with a company if we aren’t happy because we realize if we are going to spend forty or more hours a week somewhere, we better at least enjoy it most of the time – cuz no one enjoys it 100% of the time.
Millennial men spend more time playing video games than their older cohort. This I believe. I remember growing up in a time of Atari, Sega Genesis and original Nintendo. As kids, we all liked playing, however as we got older, this pastime subsided as we spent more time doing other things. But it still surprises me how many guys I know that still play video games. I think part of that is due to technology – the games are so much more realistic now. And the tech-based community aspect of gaming is completely different than when we were kids.
Twitch and these gaming conventions have changed the way gamers connect. I personally don’t understand the attraction of watching other people play, but it seems to be a thing. I remember growing up, I would get annoyed if I had to watch my brother play – I wanted to play. We would switch off for each life, if it was a one player game, and because he was normally better at it than me, my turn would always be shorter than his. It was frustrating! It was fun playing two person games – like Double Dragon on Sega. My brother and I used to play that all the time and I loved it. But also, playing now in one of those arcade bars and I realize how sexist it really is. Isn’t it funny how so much of what we grew up with in the 90’s would never fly if it came out now?
I think about that a lot as I see GenZ’s approach to fashion and how they are really just bringing back all of our 90’s looks. However, they also want to cancel a lot of our 90’s culture. I mean, which is it? You love the 90’s or you want to cancel them?
Millennials are spending more time exercising and playing sports. I see this in my life for sure. My parents never really exercised. We were into sports growing up though. My mom was on a soccer league and they both bowled – if you can call that a sport. But working out at a gym? Going for a run? Nope – that wasn’t a thing. We had this one exercise machine where you sat on a bike seat and then pulled yourself up – I guess to work your abs? But I don’t think I ever saw anyone using it. I also grew up playing sports like cheerleading, track and ultimate frisbee so going to the gym was less needed.
But once I stopped playing sports on a regular basis, I’ve been working out. Well really since I started in advertising as I gained twenty pounds in my first year after all the free pizza and beer and the lack of movement throughout the day. Since then, I workout usually at least five days a week.
I use my Peloton, I go for runs, I take Pilates classes – I’m very active. On the flip side, my brother, who is GenX, works out some because he’s in the military and needs to keep his physical condition in a certain range, but I would guess there is still a big variance between the time we spend actually working out.
And the variances between me and my parents? Huge. No competition. My dad doesn’t really work out, he goes for hikes or gardens or spends his time being active. I think he bought a Peloton competitor but not sure if he actually uses it. My mom plays golf, which I personally don’t consider that working out – especially if you use a cart. She goes for a walk around her neighborhood but it’s super interesting to me to hear her thoughts on working out.
She will base it on calories, and once she hits those calories, she’s done. And they aren’t high. For example, once time we went on a trip and she said to bring workout close because she wanted to use the gym at the resort. I was surprised to hear this, but excited! So the first day, we head to the gym together. We jump on the treadmills and I’m just about finished with my warm up and she goes, I’m done! I responded – you’re done? We’ve been walking for like 10 minutes. She goes, well I hit two hundred calories, so I’m done. Two hundred calories?! That’s like one glass of wine. Which trust, no one in my family only has one glass of wine.
Yeah, you can say we have different views about exercise and I definitely spend way more time doing it. It also helps that my husband is the same way. He’s way better at staying motivated than I am so even on days I don’t feel like working out, he keeps me motivated. He’ll do an hour or more workout and then I just feel lazy if I don’t. So I might as well!
Next, GenX spend more time shopping as Millennials. This is really due to how we shop. GenX didn’t have as much of the opportunity in 2003 to shop online. Not like we do now, especially after COVID hit. Millennials are very used to shopping online and therefore have found great efficiencies here.
I’m in this boat too, but I have my limits. I am a big Amazon shopper for sure. I am constantly getting Amazon boxes delivered. I remember ten years ago I would get excited to get a package because it wasn’t common, but now? I’m getting at least one box a week. I buy a lot of workout clothes online because I know my size by brand and don’t need to go to the store. Same with makeup, skincare etc. But groceries? That’s where I draw the line. I do get some things delivered – like I use Butcher Box because they have great meat products – same as I would get at Whole Foods but delivered in frozen ready packaging so why not? I also use a local service called MPS Groceries. I can’t say enough good things about them. If you live in Chicago, I’m going to plug them for a second so you try them – and no they haven’t paid me for this recommendation.
MPS Groceries has been around for over twenty years as a fish and produce supplier. They get new products flown in daily and it’s super fresh, high quality. However prior to COVID, they only distributed to restaurants. Once COVID happened, they switched gears and started selling directly to consumers. I love seafood, and let’s just say finding really fresh seafood in Chicago can be difficult, or at least expensive. But with MPS, I can get the freshest salmon, tuna, swordfish, oysters – you name it. Nothing like it. And the prices are great. If you love tuna sashimi but don’t love paying $25 for two pieces at a restaurant, you can get Otoro tuna – the good shit, for $50 a pound! And literally just slice it and eat. No kidding. And they deliver for free if you live in certain zip codes. Anyway, now that I’m hungry for some sashimi…let’s move on.
Lastly, Millennials sleep an average of 22 minutes more a day than GenX. Now, to be honest this stat doesn’t make me say wow. I mean, 22 minutes is hardly a big enough difference to have any sort of impact in our day to day. Part of this, I’m sure, is because like we mentioned previously, Millennials are less likely to have kids. But in the same vein, shouldn’t the difference be greater because all you hear from parents is how they never sleep. Well according to the data, sounds like we sleep almost the same amount! Maybe one of the reasons it’s not a huge difference is dog ownership. I’m curious about the difference between generations of dog owners.
Because if you have a dog, you might as well have a kid because you aren’t getting a full night sleep. Or maybe if you just have my dog. I love my Ginza – a french bulldog – but I stopped getting a full night sleep pretty much the day we got her, over four years ago. She wakes us up multiple times a night – and at times I’ve seriously contemplated kicking her out of our bedroom at night. Between licking her paws, asking to come on the bed, once she’s on the bed going under the covers, coming back over the covers, wanting to get off the bed to be let out – you name it. Sooner or later, we need to figure out a solution, but either way – I’d be curious the data behind dog ownership between these two cohorts to see if that plays a role. Or at least french bulldog owners.
How we spend our time may vary between cohorts because of your situation at home, maybe your interests or your priority of self-care. But both cohorts also re-prioritize as they age. We’ve talked a lot on this podcast how aging gives you a different perspective. To me, time and how we choose to spend it, is one of the biggest changes within a midlife crisis. And hopefully one of the most positive. We become less willing to put up with things that don’t serve us. We start to prioritize time spent on personal care, activities and people we value and jobs that align with our purpose. Comparing how 23-38 year olds spend their time between cohorts would show much less variation than comparing 23-38 to 39-50. And in that data set, my hypothesis is you would see much greater change for both GenX and Millennials. At least, that’s my hope. I hope we prioritize our time to what serves us, brings us joy and increases the minutes in our day that we want to remember later. How are you spending your time? Is there room to reallocate?
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