The general consensus regarding millennials and their work habits is that they don’t stay in jobs long. They’re “job-hoppers,” the thinking goes, and that sets them apart from people in their parents’ generation.
As it turns out, though, job-hopping is nothing new. According to a new study published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Americans born at the tail end of the so-called “Baby Boom,” between 1957 and 1964, changed jobs an average of nearly 12 times between the ages of 18 and 48. The takeaway, as Richard Florida writes for The Atlantic’s City Lab: “Job security hasn’t been a guarantee for the last 40 years.”
The statistics come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which has been following 9,964 men and women for the last 36 years. The study is said to be “representative of all men and women born in the late 1950s and early 1960s and living in the United States when the survey began in 1979,” and indeed, it provides interesting insights into how factors such as race, gender, and educational background have affected individuals’ career paths over time.
The data shows that boomers changed jobs most frequently in their youth. Between the ages of 18 and 24, the average respondent held 5.5 jobs. Over time, they tended to stay put longer, and between 40 and 48, the average number of jobs fell to 2.4.
A few other interesting things to note: Women with bachelors degrees job-hopped more than their college-educated male peers (12.5 jobs compared to 11.2); women held fewer jobs overall (11.5 compared to 11.8); and men without high school diplomas jumped around more than anyone, averaging 12.9 jobs. The study shows that race was only a significant factor early on, between the ages of 18 and 24, when white boomers changed jobs more frequently than blacks and hispanics (5.7 compared to 4.6 and 4.9).
While the finding suggest millennials and boomers aren’t so different from each other, Florida points out one key distinction. In their youth, boomers enjoyed tremendous wage growth, earning an average of 6.2 more each year between the ages of 18 and 24. By contrast, a 2013 Urban Institute study shows that in 2010, Americans in their 20s held 7 percent less wealth than 20-somethings in 1983.
Florida sees this as “particularly troubling,” and he notes that millennials “are likely to see permanent damage to their lifetime earnings.”