It’s the Wrong Time to Be a 19-21-Year-Old

The 19-21 age range is typically a time of new freedom as one heads off to college or establishes one’s own household. But what’s it like to hit this life stage amid the worst economic crisis since your great-grandparents were young? A report issued last month by Euro RSCG Discovery gives some glimpses.

In polling of 19-21-year-olds fielded in October, a mere 7 percent said they hadn’t been affected by the downturn. Asked about changes they might have made due to the economy, 62 percent said they’re “waiting longer to buy things.” Even more, 74 percent, said they now “ask myself, ‘Do I need that?’ ” Forty-seven percent said they “haven’t been shopping.” Among other austerities many 19-21s have adopted: spending less often on entertainment (40 percent have done so), less often on clothes (43 percent) and less often on snacks (41 percent).

Nor is it just a case of forgoing discretionary purchases: 34 percent said they’re “spending less on necessities.” When they do shop, many are trading down: 54 percent reported “buying high-end brands” less often.

Though they’ve reached the age when they can run loose, the recession means 53 percent are staying at home more. Even when socializing, 47 percent are “hanging out at friends’ houses” more often. Just 17 percent are “going out with friends” more often.

If they’re going to be stuck at home more of the time, the 19-21s can presumably spend less on clothing-a category in which their outlays now average $78 per month. But, given the need to make home more entertaining, they might be reluctant to reduce their expenditures on electronics, which now average $77 per month.