Millennials In Crisis: Myth Busting Millennial Debt Narratives

Colloquium | March 22 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Stephanie Ben-Ishai, Berkeley Law/ Canadian Studies / York University Osgoode Hall Law School

 Canadian Studies Program (CAN))

Intense pop-cultural commentary on millennial finances and indebtedness perpetuate two common media narratives. One narrative suggests “millennials are doomed” and that millennials face higher debt levels compounded by rising tuition costs, a lack of affordable housing, high costs of living, and an increasingly competitive job market. Counter to this narrative, the “millennial bootstrapping” narrative refutes the assertion that millennials are more financially challenged than previous generations and argues that millennials need to “pull up their bootstraps” and improve their work ethic to secure financial success. Professor Stephanie Ben-Ishai will present research that fact checks these two narratives and fills a significant gap in the Canadian academic literature on the indebtedness of millennials. She will also discuss research evaluating the impact of financial literacy education programs, which millennials have been the first to fully experience. The talk will conclude with a focus on potential legislative safeguards that attempt to protect millennials and analyze common contracts that millennials may enter into, to evaluate whether millennials are adequately protected or are left vulnerable to exploitation. The Canadian situation is important for an American audience not just because of geographic proximity and as part of a comparative project, but also because the Canadian model is often turned to when considering models for policy and law reform in this area.