The Media’s Purposeful Obfuscation of Generational Consumer Habits Like “Thrifting” and Not Owning a House

Why Are So Many People Thrifting Now

Thrifting has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among Gen Z shoppers. According to a 2022 ThredUp report, 60% of Gen Z shoppers have bought secondhand clothing in the past year, compared to 45% of Millennials and 33% of Gen X.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Even older generations and higher-income consumers are thrifting more and more these days. A recent study by ThredUp found that 39% of shoppers over the age of 55 have thrifted in the past year, up from 29% in 2019.

My first question, and the one I believe is purposefully not being asked by the media, is: Is the increase in thrifting a good thing?

Why Are So Many People Thrifting Now?

A search on Google will give you lots of reasons why Generation Z and even older generations are thrifting now more than ever. And of course, the reasons given are often flowery, impossible to prove, and sound more like justifications than driving reasons for buying behavior.

According to Google, people are thrifting more:

  • To save money: The cost of living has been rising in recent years, and many people are looking for ways to save money. Thrifting is a great way to find clothes, furniture, and other household items at a fraction of the price of new items.
  • To find unique items: Thrift stores are a treasure trove of unique and vintage items. You can find one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing, furniture, and home decor at thrift stores that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.
  • To support sustainable fashion: The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Thrifting is a way to reduce waste and support sustainable fashion. When you buy a used item, you’re keeping it out of a landfill and giving it a new life.
  • To be more environmentally friendly: Thrifting is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. When you buy used items, you’re reducing the demand for new products, which can save resources and reduce pollution.
  • To connect with their community: Thrifting can be a way to connect with your community. Many thrift stores are run by non-profit organizations that support important causes. When you shop at a thrift store, you’re not just saving money, you’re also supporting your community.
  • To have fun: Thrifting can be a fun and rewarding experience. It’s like going on a treasure hunt, never knowing what you’re going to find. You can also find great deals on clothes, furniture, and other household items.
  • To be more stylish: Thrifting is a great way to find unique and stylish pieces of clothing. You can mix and match different items to create your own unique look.
  • To be more trendy: You can find trendy clothes at thrift stores at a fraction of the price of new trendy clothes. This allows you to keep up with the latest trends without breaking the bank.
  • To be more expressive: Thrifting is a great way to express your personal style. You can find clothes and accessories at thrift stores that reflect your unique personality.
  • To be more inclusive: Thrifting is a great way to find clothes in all sizes and styles. This makes it a great option for people of all sizes and body types.
  • To be more accessible: Thrift stores are located all over the world, making them accessible to people of all income levels.
  • To be more convenient: Thrift stores are typically open long hours, making it convenient to shop for used items.

Now then, if you believe that the majority of people are shopping at a thrift store because they want to and not because they have to, then I have to ask: Why now, all of a sudden?

I find it strange that Gen Z shops at thrift stores more than any other generation in the last 100 years. Comparing their home ownership rates reveals another important fact.

The middle class is disappearing, the currency has lost its purchasing and saving power, and the real economy is not good.

Home Ownership of Gen Z Compared to Other Generations

GenerationHomeownership rate per capita
Silent Generation (born 1928-1945)69.2%
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)65.5%
Generation X (born 1965-1980)64.4%
Millennials (born 1981-1996)61.8%
Generation Z (born 1997-2012)41.5%

As you can see, homeownership rates have been declining for each generation since the Silent Generation. This is due to a number of factors, including rising housing costs, stagnant wages, and student loan debt. It also occurs simultaneously, as the US national debt has passed $33 trillion USD and is now recognized as officially unsustainable.

Is “Thrifting” Just Another Favorite Media Lie to Cover Up a Bad Economic Situation?

Is it any surprise that a person who cannot afford to buy a home is shopping at a thrift store, and not just maybe because they think it’s novel and fun?

To me, this is obvious. But the media (and Google) paint the situation as ultimately rosy and environmentally conscious. I suppose that Gen Z also do not buy homes because they’d rather be homeless or dependent upon someone else than emit the carbon it takes to chop down a tree and turn lumber into a housing structure.

A History of Media Lies About the Economy: Millennials and “Experiences”

I remember reading an article about 10 years ago where the writer said millennials weren’t buying houses because they preferred “experiences” over things. After fighting back the urge to vomit involuntarily, I wondered just what the heck someone would say such an absurd thing for.

To me, it comes off immediately as a cope. Millennials aren’t choosing experiences over things. They saw the writing on the wall and did the math. Getting a good job and buying a home might not even be possible, much less a feasible trajectory for the next 30 years of their lives in the midst of a shrinking middle class and massive student loan debt.

As such, they gave up and just started spending what money they had on themselves to have fun now, but it may have been a better choice than hitching their proverbial wagon to a housing, job market, or economic recovery that never materialized.

And the current economic situation would justify that decision, in my opinion.

But that doesn’t mean they “prefer” experiences over things. It means they know they might not attain those things, period. And to an extent, they’ve dealt with it in their own way.

Media articles in the last decade or so have often reported that millennials prefer experiences over wealth-building or owning things. This is often attributed to millennials’ growing up during the Great Recession, which made them more wary of debt and materialistic pursuits. Millennials are also more likely to value social connection and personal growth than previous generations.

Here are some examples of media articles that make this claim:

  • “Millennials Are Spending Their Money on Experiences, Not Things” (The New York Times, 2016)
  • “Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Possessions” (Forbes, 2017)
  • “The Rise of the Experience Economy: Why Millennials Are Spending Their Money on Memories” (The Guardian, 2018)
  • “Millennials Are Prioritizing Experiences Over Things” (CNBC, 2019)
  • “Why Millennials Are Spending More Money on Experiences Than Things” (Inc. Magazine, 2020)

However, there is some evidence to suggest that this claim may not be entirely accurate. For example, a 2021 study by Bankrate found that 51% of millennials say that they are saving for a down payment on a home, and 45% say that they are saving for retirement. This suggests that millennials are interested in both experiences and wealth building.

Another 2021 study by Deloitte found that millennials are more likely to spend money on durable goods, such as furniture and appliances, than previous generations. This suggests that millennials are not simply interested in ephemeral experiences.

It is important to note that millennials are a diverse group, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether they prefer experiences over wealth building. However, the available evidence suggests that millennials are interested in both experiences and wealth building.

Here are some possible reasons why the media may have overstated the claim that millennials prefer experiences over wealth building:

  • The media may be biased towards stories about young people spending money on experiences. This is because these stories are often more interesting and relatable to readers.
  • The media may be focusing on a specific subset of millennials who are more likely to value experiences over wealth building. For example, the media may be focusing on millennials who live in urban areas and have high incomes.
  • The media may be using outdated data. Many of the media articles that claim that millennials prefer experiences over wealth building were published several years ago. It is possible that millennials’ spending habits have changed since then.

Overall, it is important to be critical of media articles that claim that millennials prefer experiences over wealth-building. It is important to consider the source of the article and the data that is being used to support the claim.

Can the Media Be Trusted to Paint an Accurate Economic Picture?

If you trust the mainstream media, in my opinion, you have not been paying attention for the last 25 years, minimum. They have been (and are now) cheerleaders for overseas wars resulting in devastating losses of innocent life. They have also been instrumental in how biased or unbiased they’d like the current US President to be portrayed.

But at the end of the day, greed and flattery should not be ruled out as the primary factors. After all, they still do want worker bees going to work, regardless of whether their bleak personal economic situation will ever improve in reality.

The media has a number of incentives to lie about the true state of the economy. Some of these incentives include:

  • Supporting the financial system and keeping stocks artificially high: Many media companies are owned by large corporations, which have a vested interest in keeping the stock market high. If the media were to report on the true state of the economy, which is often not good, it could lead to a decline in stock prices. This would hurt the bottom line of these corporations and their shareholders.
  • Not going against their own advertisers: Many media companies rely on advertising revenue to stay afloat. If the media were to report on the true state of the economy, which could include negative news about some advertisers, it could lead to those advertisers pulling their ads. This would hurt the revenue of the media companies.
  • Normalcy bias: People are more likely to believe information that confirms their existing beliefs, and this includes media coverage of the economy. If people believe that the economy is doing well, they are more likely to consume goods and services, which helps to keep the economy going. Therefore, the media has an incentive to report on the economy in a positive light, even if that means lying about the true state of the economy.

In addition to these incentives, the media is also susceptible to groupthink, which is the tendency of people to make decisions that conform to the views of the group. In the case of the media, this can lead to a situation where all of the major media outlets are reporting on the economy in a similar way, even if that reporting is inaccurate.

As a result of these incentives, the media is often biased in its coverage of the economy. This bias can lead to people being misled about the true state of the economy and making decisions that are not in their best interests.

Protecting All Generations’ Access to Truth and Wealth

Here are some tips for all generations of consumers on how to avoid being misled by the media’s coverage of the economy:

  • Be critical of the news you consume. Don’t just accept everything you read or hear as true.
  • Get your news from a variety of sources, including independent media outlets.
  • Be aware of the media’s biases and try to account for them when interpreting the news.
  • Do your own research to verify the information that you are presented with.

By following these tips, consumers can be better informed about the state of the economy and make more informed decisions.

Conclusion on Thrifting

Whether you think the media is purposefully misleading the public about the true economic situation, another issue remains. Thrifting has driven up the cost of second-hand clothes for the folks who need to shop at thrift stores the most. So something done out of necessity may have also been aggravated by those who have picked it up as a novelty or hobby.

Don’t believe the hype. The folks running the media, companies, and governments would prefer you never wake up to your inheritance and progeny being robbed by the same very hands.

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