Massachusetts policymakers sit down with a group of millennials. What do they talk about? The answer, according to a new report, is housing, transportation, student debt and a host of other topics.
The Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday released a 44-page report looking at the priorities of millennials, the 20- and 30-somethings now beginning to take a major role in technology, government and industry.
The report was the result of 11 listening sessions across the state conducted by a Senate task force focused on millennials, co-chaired by Sens. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, and Ryan Fattman, R-Webster. Lesser and Fattman are two of the 29 millennials serving in the state Legislature.
Who are millennials?
Millennials are anyone born between 1980 and 2000. They make up 27.4 percent of the Massachusetts population.
What do millennials think of government?
Based on the report, not much.
According to research cited in the report, more than half of millennials trust the government a little or not at all, and trust in major governmental institutions is eroding.
The report makes several recommendations to address millennial engagement in government, including making more state agency data publicly available online in an open format; creating a state website where citizens can propose ideas and request government action; and requiring all bills to have online bill summaries.
As student debt rises nationwide, Massachusetts millennials have an average debt of $31,466 per person.
With financial stability a growing problem, in 2015, 37 percent of Massachusetts millennials lived with their parents. Seventy-four percent were single – the highest rate of any state.
Massachusetts already lets high school students take discounted community college courses for college credit. The Senate report proposes making all courses free for one year.
The report recommends creating loan forgiveness programs for people living in Gateway Cities or working in human services or public service. It proposes offering incentives to businesses that pay off employees’ student loans. Several bills have also been filed to lower student tuition.
Another reason so many millennials are living with their parents – the ninth-highest rate in the country – is the lack of affordable housing in Massachusetts, particularly around Greater Boston.
The report recommends creating tax-deductible first-time home buyer savings accounts.
One proposal would create “millennial villages” with housing sizes and prices that appeal to millennials. The idea would be to create appropriate housing for young professionals, freeing up older housing stock, such as two- to four-bedroom homes, for families with children and older individuals.
Fixing the ailing MBTA has been a state government priority since the breakdown of the system during the winter of 2015. The report stresses the importance to millennials of transportation other than cars – such as ride-sharing services, trains and buses or bikes.
In Western Massachusetts, improving transportation could mean advocating for high-speed rail between Boston and Springfield. There is a similar effort in place to bring rail to the South Coast.
The report also includes recommendations related to improving financial literacy and civic education in high schools and helping veterans transition to civilian life and the civilian job market.
The report recommends creating a “millennial caucus” in the state Legislature to implement an agenda that helps millennials.