As millennials turn 40 in 2021, CNBC Make It launched Middle aged millennials, a series exploring how the older members of this generation came of age amid the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, student loans, stagnant salaries and the rising cost of living.
For Amit Singh Bagga, it was only a matter of time before he ran for office. After holding various government positions over the past 14 years, Bagga is candidate for New York City Council in November.
“I have been a very committed and politically involved person for almost as long as I can remember,” said Bagga, 35. For him, running for office is not just about making the government work for the people, but also about breaking a drink. ceiling.
Bagga, one of more than 20 candidates vying for a seat in their Council district, would be the first queer South Asian elected anywhere in the country if he wins in November. “You feel like you’re doing this, not just for yourself, but for the millions of people who make up the communities you represent, and it’s your job to make sure you’re doing the right thing,” Bagga said.
Yet for every candidate like Bagga, there are many more older millennials like Rachael Everson. A 35-year-old former teacher who now works as an office coordinator based in Memphis, Tennessee, Everson considers herself politically active. She votes and writes to her elected officials on occasion, but does not intend to run herself.
With over $ 200,000 in student loans yet to be repaid, Everson says her finances are too tight to live on a public servant’s salary, and she thinks the lifestyle is too stressful.
In fact, while more than half of older millennials report being politically active, only 12% say they have ever applied for public office or are certainly considering doing so, according to a recent poll by The Harris poll on behalf of CNBC Make It among 1,000 respondents aged 33 to 40.
It is much less than the other generations.
Almost a third of Gen Z (ages 18-24) say they are definitely considering running for office or have already done so, while around a quarter of Millennials ( aged 25 to 32) and Gen X (aged 41 to 56)) have similar responses, according to a separate follow-up survey The Harris poll conducted for CNBC Make It in April, polling more than 2,000 American adults in additional generations.
“This generation is exhausted – from advancing the workforce to paying off student loans to buying a home and educating children,” said Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema. “Trying to balance all of these pressures while still retaining some semblance of social life – that extra role as a member of the school board or city council might be a bridge too far.”
Here’s a look at why older millennials don’t want to run for office, what the long-term implications are, and how this trend may change as this generation continues to age.
For many older millennials, it boils down to a simple equation: Do the benefits of showing up at the office outweigh the costs? For the most part the answer is no, says Shauna shame, professor at Rutgers specializing in American political behavior and author of “Out of the Running: Why Millennials Reject Political Careers and Why It Matters”.
In many cases, potential candidates must have a job that allows them to take time off or flexible hours to campaign and complete office duties if they win. Otherwise, they must have savings that they can exploit if they quit their jobs because political roles are often not well paid.
If paid, the annual salaries of local elected officials can be as low as $ 15,500, according to data from ZipRecruiter. The highest paid people can earn up to $ 100,500, including full-time positions at the national level, such as Senators and Members of Congress.
It is a consideration for those who may have financial obligations, says Amanda Litman, co-founder and executive director of Run for something, a political incubator that works with Americans between the ages of 18 and 40 who are first-time progressive candidates running in local elections. And for older millennials, now is the time to focus on achieving milestones in life, such as building a successful career, owning a home, and / or starting a family.
Bagga, for example, had to dip into his savings when he stepped down as deputy director of the 2020 New York census campaign six months ago to run.
“I will have completely used up my savings by the end of it. That’s the reality,” he said. “I have a mortgage, I have a car payment – these are all real demands on my finances.” Members of the New York City Council earn a salary of $ 148,500 per year.
Beyond financial concerns, many older millennials feel like they are being co-opted into a dirty system by running for public office.
Many are not convinced that politics is the way to get things done that they think society needs, like better roads and schools, and the creation of good jobs and safe communities. This is a particularly common sentiment in the context of the stalemate and hyper-partisanship that is present in politics at the national level, Shames says.
Many older millennials see working in unelected government positions as a way forward, rather than running for office, Shames says. Others see activism as a path to meaningful change. As a generation, millennials participate “systematically” in militant movements, according to Academic research 2019 led by Nolan Higdon.
There is also an “ick” factor when it comes to fundraising and asking for money from friends, as well as special interest groups, Shames says. Most older millennials don’t want to live in a space where they feel indebted, she says.
With these concerns, will the attitudes of older millennials change as they become more comfortable in adulthood, beyond simply moving up the ranks of the workforce and making a difference? to achieve financial stability?
“We have delayed these important milestones in our lives, and I think running for public office was the same situation,” said Rick Loughery, president of the National Federation of Young Republicans. “But the next step is to run for office and take control of politics in this country.”
Those under 40 are more expressing the values and actions they expect from institutions, especially in recent years on issues such as race, inequality and climate change.
“The next step is to walk the talk,” says pollster Gerzema.
Some are already taking up the torch. Miranda Schubert, who is running for a city council in Tucson, Ariz., says she entered the race because she felt the need to change the status quo in a real and meaningful way.
“You can only read so many articles about millennials who kill white people before you say, ‘OK, we’re working really hard. We play by the rules, and somehow it doesn’t really work, ‘”says Schubert, 36. For Schubert, it seems obvious to question and work to change a system that doesn’t. not prioritize issues such as living wages, fairness, social justice and climate change.
“We’re at an inflection point,” says Schubert. “The situations we are facing right now – racial and social justice, workers’ rights, climate change – all of these things require substantive change and real, non-performative change, not just the creation of another committee.” or passing a law without all the teeth, ”she said.
If older millennials don’t show up, their values and perspectives are more likely to be left out of these conversations and future legislation. “I don’t want us to not have a powerful voice at the table,” Loughery said.
Older millennials may be on the way.
the National Federation of Young Republicans, for example, has seen a huge spike in interest in 30-something who wants to run for office in recent years, Loughery says. Last year, the organization made more than 23 million voter contacts nationwide and helped elect more than 24 young Republicans to Congress and more than 2,000 young Republicans to state legislatures.
Run for something has a pipeline of 76,000 people who have registered with the organization and expressed an interest in running for public office. This year alone, the organization has approved 192 applicants nationwide and expects that to reach around 400 applicants in 2021, according to Litman.
In some cases, Loughery says, seeing more millennials infiltrating national politics also helps inspire others to runeven at the local level. In the last elections, Americans elected 31 millennials to Congress, including the first millennium in the Senate, Jon Ossoff, 34.
But more changes are needed to open up the possibility for younger candidates to run – a higher salary, for example.
“We have to pay these [local political] more positions so that you can get services from the working class and not from the rich people independently, ”says Litman. “Ultimately it changes the outcome of the policies that we get. “
In the meantime, Loughery says it’s also about older millennials realizing they need to invest in the country’s future. “There are a lot of older millennials who are finally stepping up and saying, ‘Look, our country needs young leaders, young professionals to step in and really take the reins,” Loughery said.
“We cannot cede this territory to the baby boomers. They have had their time, now is the time for a younger generation to lead.”
CNBC Make It will publish more stories in the Middle Aged Millennials series on student loans, jobs, wealth, diversity and health. If you are a millennial older (33-40 years old), stell your story with us for the chance to appear in a future episode.