Millennials and the Economy: Coronavirus Is the Second Setback in a Generation

Across all generations, millennials are most likely to say pandemic has had a major impact on their financial situation
(Getty Images / Morning Consult illustration by Samantha Elbouez)
September 28, 2020 at 6:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Nearly 2 in 5 millennials say the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on their current financial situation.

  • 1 in 5 millennials say COVID-19 has had no impact at all on their finances.

  • Overall, 28 percent of U.S. adults said the pandemic has had a major impact on their financial situation.


A new series from Morning Consult takes a deeper look at how the coronavirus pandemic could permanently alter millennials’ behavior and how, in turn, that could impact the economy at large. The data is drawn from a poll of 4,400 adults, including 1,287 millennials.


When it comes to the economy, millennials really have rotten luck.

Millennials never quite healed from the Great Recession, and the economic prosperity of their elders has largely been out of reach. Ever since millennials hit adulthood – scarred by a flailing job market following the 2008 financial crisis and laden with record amounts of student debt — the generation has struggled to accumulate wealth, start families and settle into their own homes.

Now, the generation faces a new challenge: a global pandemic that’s upending the economy, just as millennials should be in the prime of their economic lives and as they represent the bulk of the U.S. workforce. And the pandemic isn’t hitting everyone evenly, with millennials bearing the brunt of layoffs, having little equity in housing, and lacking robust savings and long-standing careers to fall back on. 

Of any generation, millennials were most likely to say that the coronavirus pandemic is having a “major” impact on their finances, at 39 percent. An additional 41 percent said it’s had a “minor impact,” and 20 percent said it has had no impact at all.

That’s a significant leap from their parents: Only 17 percent of baby boomers say the pandemic has had a major financial impact on them. While 50 percent of boomers said they’ve experienced a minor impact, 33 percent answered that the pandemic has had no impact whatsoever on their current financial situation.

Among all adults, 28 percent said the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact financially, and 45 percent said it’s made a minor impact. 

The survey was conducted Sept. 8-10 and has a margin of error of 1 percentage point. The subsample of millennials has a 3-point margin of error.

In the series, we explore the millennial baby bust and how the pandemic is complicating the calculus on the ever-tightening budgets of prospective parents. We also share how millennials feel about their student debt now that the country has hit a big economic downturn, dive into the millennial housing market during COVID-19 and look at how current take-home pay has been affected by the pandemic. 

Claire Williams previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering finances.

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