Review: Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials

Posted 4 February, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials
By: Malcolm Harris
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Millennials have been stereotyped as lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and immature. We’ve gotten so used to sloppy generational analysis filled with dumb clichÈs about young people that we’ve lost sight of what really unites Millennials. Namely:

– We are the most educated and hard-working generation in American history.

– We poured historic and insane amounts of time and money into preparing ourselves for the 21st century labor market.

– We have been taught to consider working for free (homework, internships) a privilege for our own benefit.

– We are poorer, more medicated, and more precariously employed than our parents, grandparents, even our great grandparents, with less of a social safety net to boot.

Kids These Days, is about why. In brilliant, crackling prose, early Wall Street occupier Malcolm Harris gets mercilessly real about our maligned birth cohort. Examining trends like runaway student debt, the rise of the intern, mass incarceration, social media, and more, Harris gives us a portrait of what it means to be young in America today that will wake you up and piss you off.

Millennials were the first generation raised explicitly as investments, Harris argues, and in Kids These Days he dares us to confront and take charge of the consequences now that we are grown up.

I ended up picking up this book after reading an article recently on Buzzfeed, How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation and how it perfectly encapsulated the challenges and realities our generation faces. I was curious to read more analysis on the matter so I picked up this book.

This book pretty much confirms a lot of the frustrations, challenges, and realities that I’ve noticed I/we’re up against: how we’re taught from a young age that our education, extracurriculars, and hard work will pay off with a good, stable job and our lives will be great, etc., etc. But it fails to account for the way the market and the economy is operating; the financial crises has derailed much of these plans, individuals from the Milennial cohort are constantly struggling to catch up, working long hours, the pay not where it’s supposed to be, in an effort to still achieve that level of prosperity and stability we were trained to aim for.

It highlights much of the generational differences too; my parents for example would speak of benefits and job security but I have my own suspicions that those benefits will not be there, that job security–despite working in healthcare–isn’t 100% guaranteed as even though healthcare still needs humans to provide care, they work until a business model which means less staff, more reliance on part-time roles and RPNs over RNs, etc (there’s a whole module on this I could go off on, but that would be a tangent unto itself). This book is so important in that sense because Millennials do get a bad rap in the media and popular culture and get blamed for a whole wide range of things phasing out of mode when they forget that circumstances, the environment, do play a major role in why a generation acts a certain way. I hate the labels anyway, but the sweeping generalisations also reflect the times. It confirms in my mind how, whilst the world has always been motivated by economics, the business model really is the dominant system that we all operate under.

Does this book offer any potential solutions to the challenges faced, the system we inherently live and adapted to? Yes, but it’s nothing I haven’t read before. A lot of work is obviously needed, a concerted effort, to affect the system we live in.

Overall Kids These Days effectively expresses the experience and the system that Millennials are working with/against. It’s an uphill battle, and depending on your experience so far, you may be feeling these challenges and you will feel riled up at times (I know I did). Anyhow, it’s an informative look at our generation and worth checking out.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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One Response to “Review: Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials”

  1. Oof, I don’t know if I could handle reading this book. As a fellow millennial, I think I would get too frustrated! Great review, though. I hope people who have think millennials have it easy find this book…

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