Can Washington Retain Millennials?

From The Washington Post:

Millennials have been flocking to Washington for nearly a decade, lured by the promise of plentiful jobs and high wages in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

But will they stay? Researchers say it’s doubtful.

“We hear a lot about millennials as though they’re mythological creatures from another planet — a planet with beanbag chairs and foosball tables in every office,” said Dawn Leijon, executive-in-residence at the Kogod School of Business and the report’s lead researcher. “But they have the same working-stiff concerns that previous generations did: Are there enough jobs? Can they make enough money to pay the bills?”

And, she added, they’re increasingly finding it difficult — and expensive — to put down roots in the Washington region. Even with an average salary of $65,910 — a 39 percent premium on the national average of $48,320, only 12 percent of millennials said they felt they could afford to buy a house in the area, according to the second annual Kogod Greater Washington Millennial Index.

“The high cost of living makes it very, very difficult to save money towards retirement,” one survey respondent said. “Many people are living paycheck to paycheck.”

Traffic was another source of frustration. The Washington area has the second-worse commute, behind New York, according to Leijon. It turns out, for all of the talk of public transportation, ride-sharing and cycling, 60 percent of Washington’s millennials drive themselves to work each day. Many — 57 percent of those surveyed — said they could commute using Metro, but chose not to do so because it is unreliable and inefficient.

“Traffic is horrendous,” Leijon said, adding that 32 percent of survey respondents said congested roads were the worst part of living in the area. “About one-third of millennials said their commute is ‘killing’ them.”

The Washington region should work to retain its concentration of 20- and 30-somethings, Leijon said. By 2020, millennials will make up half of the U.S. workforce, making it especially important for the region to be able to attract — and keep — well-
educated workers.

In practice, many millennials said that means having employers who match their contributions to 401(k) plans and subsidize their health insurance. They also said they would like a paid, two-month sabbatical after five years of employment and the option to telecommute at least one day a week.

“Washington has traditionally been all about workaholics,” Fuller said. “But millennials don’t want that — they want work-life balance, and it is essential that companies pay attention.”

View the full story ›