New Books Network

Malcolm Harris

Kids These Days

Human Capital and the Making of Millennials

Little, Brown and Co 2017

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network January 11, 2018 Richard E. Ocejo

Every young generation inspires a host of comparisons—usually negative ones—with older generations. Whether preceding a criticism or punctuating one, “kids these days” is a...

Every young generation inspires a host of comparisons—usually negative ones—with older generations. Whether preceding a criticism or punctuating one, “kids these days” is a common utterance. Perhaps because of the ubiquity of the internet and their heavy presence on it, Millennials have been the most parsed and monitored generation as its members are still in the process of coming of age in history. Stereotypes abound in the media and popular culture: Millennials are lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and immature. Synthesizing an array of social science research that has been conducted not just on this cohort but on the society they find themselves struggling to navigate, writer Malcolm Harris in Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (Little, Brown and Company, 2017) aims to get readers to question these stereotypes and myths and instead think about how Millennials are trying to survive within today’s shifting social structures and conditions. More than any other generation, Millennials have been raised to think of everything they do as a way to build human capital and invest in their own future. And they do so at time in American history when higher education is becoming increasingly expensive as wages are declining, work is becoming more precarious and less stable, and the future of the social safety net is showing signs of either eroding or at least completely transforming in the future. In short, the book refreshingly considers the forces that have helped shape who Millennials are and why they behave and think as they do. With luck, it will encourage a discussion of the root causes behind serious problems that this young cohort confronts (precarity, youth poverty, over-medication, and over-work) and their possible solutions instead of the same tired stereotypes.


Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale mens barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as City & Community, Poetics, Ethnography, and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge, 2012) and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Metropolitics, Work and Occupations, and the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography.