Lead Story… If you follow the news even casually, you probably know that Millennials are less likely to own cars and homes or be parents than prior generations. However, there is one area where Millennials are out ahead: Pets. The Washington Post published the results of a study of pet ownership among young people and the results were somewhat stunning (emphasis mine):
Three-fourths of Americans in their 30s have dogs, while 51 percent have cats, according to a survey released by research firm Mintel. That compares to 50 percent of the overall population with dogs, and 35 percent with cats.
The findings come at a time when millennials, roughly defined as the generation born between 1980 and 2000, are half as likely to be married or living with a partner than they were 50 years ago. They are also delaying parenthood and demanding flexible work arrangements — all of which, researchers say, has translated to higher rates of pet ownership.
“Pets are becoming a replacement for children,” said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of “Generation Me.” “They’re less expensive. You can get one even if you’re not ready to live with someone or get married, and they can still provide companionship.”
You read that correctly, 75% of American’s in their 30s have dogs! That is a yuge percentage and makes this self-proclaimed crazy dog person quite happy. As with most publications though, WAPO seems to be implying that Millennials’ penchant for animal companionship makes them somehow different from the rest of “us.” Indeed, if Millennials were going to forego family life permanently in favor of living with only dogs or cats it would have dire demographic implications. Instead, I would suggest the pet ownership trend fits nicely with my theory about Millennials: they aren’t any different from prior generations, they are just taking longer to hit certain milestones than previous generations did. Human beings need companionship and pets fill that gap before young people are ready to start families. The increase in pet ownership is a good thing. There are a ton of healthy benefits to having a pet as a family member, not the least of which is reducing stress.
Why am I so certain that dramatically increasing pet ownership among young people isn’t a harbinger of demographic doom? Well, for one, I’ve lived it. I was born in 1979 so I’m not technically a Millennial but I didn’t get married until later in life. I rescued a Black Labrador named Shadow when I was 24 who was my best friend for 10 years. Despite my attachment to my dog, I ended up getting married in my mid-30s and had kids soon after. Shadow passed away several years ago and Pepper, a 2 year old Golden Retriever is now an important member of our family. Also, I can’t imagine a scenario under-which we wouldn’t have a dog.
All that being said, there was one segment of the article that really frightened me (emphasis mine):
Millenials were also twice as likely than Baby Boomers to buy clothing for their pets, a phenomenon Richter chalks up to the prevalence of social media.
“The clothing is, for them, an opportunity for performance — they put it on their dog or cat, take them for a walk, post a picture on Facebook,” Richter said. “It’s increasingly about getting a digital stamp of approval.”
On second thought, I take back everything that I just wrote. Maybe Millennials are the hipster weirdos that the press makes them out to be after all.
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Chart of the Day
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