The Search for ‘Gen Y Zero’

Over the last half-decade or so, I’ve spent a lot of time studying and speaking about Gen Ys, and was on another panel back in June at the Pacific Coast Builder’s Conference in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve received two more requests to speak about it at industry events. While it’s encouraging to see such widespread interest in this demographic cohort, I’m feeling a bit ready to move on to the next thing.

Even before PCBC, I was already feeling I’d heard too many presentations about Gen Y that treated the entire block of 18-33 year olds as a monolith, and I just knew this couldn’t be correct. My attention was drawn to those at the upper end of that scale, and I began what I have now come to call my “Search for Gen Y Zero.” Who is the “first” Gen Y in America, where is she, and what is she doing?

My friend and demographer Tim Cornwell of The Concord Group suggests, “She’s thirty-four years old,

recently married, pregnant with her second child, and just bought a house in the suburbs.” In other words, she’s behaving pretty much like her parents, or maybe grandparents, except she’s chronicling her transitions on her Facebook page and posting updates to Twitter. OK, and earning more than her husband. Tim suggests that the subset of 29-34 year olds are partnering up and reproducing at a brisk clip, and those who are still living in apartments are creating a sizeable pent-up demand for new homeownership opportunities. He says this group is like a drawn sling shot—pulled back with all this tension and ready to rocket into the great blue yonder. With house prices at a cyclical low and mortgage rates (until very, very recently) at historic lows, what’s keeping them from making the leap?

Dang down payment. The ‘rents are not in a position today to pull a second on the house and give the new young household a boost. Otherwise, we might be seeing a real rush right now.