Economy

It’s Me, Hi, I’m the Problem. I’m 33.

I have covered economics for 11 years now, and in that time, I have come to the realization that I am a statistic. Every time I make a major life choice, I promptly watch it become the thing that everyone is doing that year.

I started college in 2009, in the era of all-time-high matriculation rates. When I moved to a big coastal city after graduation, so did a huge crowd of people: It was the age of millennial urbanization. When I lived in a walk-in closet so that I could pay off my student loans (“The yellow paint makes it cheerful!”, Craigslist promised), student debt had recently overtaken auto loans and credit cards as the biggest source of borrowing outside of housing in America.

My partner and I bought a house in 2021, along with (seemingly and actually) a huge chunk of the rest of the country. We married in 2022, the year of many, many weddings. The list goes on.

I am no simple crowd follower. What I am is 32, about to be 33 in a few weeks.

And there are so many of us.

If demographics are destiny, the demographic born in 1990 and 1991 was destined to compete for housing, jobs and other resources. Those two birth years, the people set to turn 33 and 34 in 2024, make up the peak of America’s population.

As the biggest part of the biggest generation, this hyper-specific age group — call us what you will, but I like “peak millennials” — has moved through the economy like a person squeezing into a too-small sweater. At every life stage, it has stretched a system that was often too small to accommodate it, leaving it somewhat flabby and misshapen in its wake. My cohort has an outsized amount of economic power, but that has sometimes made life harder for us.

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