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Are Millennials and GenZ living in a Modern Gilded Age?

"There is no present or future - only the past, happening over and over again - now" - Eugene O'Neill

Have you all been tuning into the latest historical drama series, "The Gilded Age" on HBO Max? Set in the 1880s New York City, the show delves into the intricate dynamics of "old money" versus "new money" showcasing not only the wealthy elite but the lives of their domestic workers including the struggles of African Americans during that time period. As an admirer of historical pieces, I'm drawn into how this series parallel with our current society. Although, its a mere glimpse of the past envisioned by movie studios, producers, directors and actors. You sometimes have to ask yourself are they showing us the rampant of history repeating itself?



As generational shifts unfold, we're witnessing intriguing socioeconomic trends that have journeyed from the Baby Boomers era through Generation X and now find their place among Millennials and Gen Z. Millennials, typically born between 1981 and 1997, have had a front-row seat to one of the most remarkable technological revolutions in history: the advent of the World Wide Web. Meanwhile, Gen Z, typically born between 1997 and 2012 have rapidly risen to prominence, leveraging social media platforms from Snapchat to TikTok, where they've become instant celebrities overnight. Quite impressive!


Drawing a parallel to history, let's take a glance back at the Gilded Age, a period spanning two decades between the Reconstruction Era and the Progressive Era. It was marked by tremendous economic growth, mass immigration, and a political landscape that echoes some of the complexities we face today. Mark Twain famously coined the term "The Gilded Age," describing an era that gleamed on the surface but concealed deeper complexities within.



It's fascinating to ponder the parallels between then and now. Could we indeed be living in a time reminiscent of the past? Let's delve deeper into this intriguing possibility, focusing particularly on aspects of life deemed most significant to both generations, such as employment, finances and homebuying.


Holzwarth


Finances. The Gilded Age marked not just an era of industrial revolution, but a stark division between the wealthy and the rest of America (Holzwarth, 2019). Much of this wealth derived from exploitative practices in industries like tobacco and cotton, built on the backs of enslaved laborers. Does this narrative sound familiar? Across the years, various cultures have been admonished to "pull themselves up by the bootstraps." But how feasible is that? With the skyrocketing costs of essentials such as food, transportation, and overall living expenses, saving money has become an insurmountable challenge for those who earn insufficient wages or struggle to meet even the most basic needs of survival.


Homebuying. As cities grew more diverse and underwent development during the Gilded Age, living conditions deteriorated for many, plunging them into poverty. Communities began to isolate themselves from urban centers, exacerbating the impact of rising taxes on those already struggling (Holzwarth, 2019). Have you noticed this trend too? Before Covid, homeownership seemed attainable, but now, purchasing a house in a desirable neighborhood at an affordable price feels like reaching for the moon. What was once considered achievable for some has become a distant dream, with millennials and Gen Z facing challenges in affording homes despite decent incomes, leading many to opt for apartment living, roommates, or moving back in with family.


In reflecting on the captivating historical drama series, "The Gilded Age" we're drawn not only to the compelling narratives of wealth, power and societal dynamics of the 19th century but also how there is a striking resemblance to our current world. As we continue to witness generational shifts and technological advancements, we are prompted to ask ourselves whether or not is history indeed repeating itself, if so.


What will we witness next?





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