Observations by Lance Pauker

Fast Company recently provided a solid breakdown of the demographics behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. Fast Company: OWS stats. Here’s some important things many people I’ve spoke with don’t seem to know:

  • 26.7% of those participating are enrolled in school, and only 10% are full-time students. I was surprised by these numbers as they indicated OWS is not a student-led movement by any means, which provides a strong contrast to the anti-Vietnam protest of the late 60’s. Also it’s important to note, there doesn’t appear to be a strong university presence by any means, not only numbers wise but also location wise, as no protests are taking place at colleges or on university campuses.
  • A third of protesters are over 35. While I couldn’t find a stat of how many are under 30, this was pretty striking to me, in the sense that this doesn’t appear to be an age specific movement. Therefore, despite what some of the articles I’ve read are saying, Generation Y is not driving the movement in any way whatsoever.
  • At Onesixtyfourth, we’ve talked about GenY’s preponderance for conformity in the sense that we are not a riot-induced, crazily protesting generation. So to see if this held true I did some mother-in-law research about OWS and spoke to some friends to learn about their thoughts and involvement. There were essentially three types of responses:
  1. It’s stupid and it’s terrible and they should just go out and get jobs instead of complaining. (I should note that these comments are from Georgetown students and a lot of them are probably considered as coming from families in the one percent)
  2. It’s tough to take it completely seriously, though they definitely have a point.
  3. I am supporting the movement via social media, though I’m not going out and protesting or anything.

The second view seemed to be the most popular.  One quote from a student who grew up in Berkley, California**  clearly illustrates the general sentiment.

“I think they have good ideas…It’s a lot of lazy, unemployed 20 something year olds who have nothing to do and just want to protest, and it’s just very unorganized. Though I definitely agree with the ideals that started it. Financial reform, mainly

[**My friend, a very liberal person from Berkley, didn’t fully support the movement. If this was something that GenY was fully behind, I’d have guessed that given Berkley’s history and politics, he would be part of the life-blood of the movement.]

Interestingly, of all the people I talked to and monitored via social media, only one went out, protested and actually camped out for two nights at OccupyDC. I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically said, “There’s a lot of people who need help and they’re not getting it.” He further told me, “It got really sketchy at night and I didn’t feel totally safe. As to the people that were camping out at McPherson Square, a lot of them don’t even have a choice.”

Clearly my primary research is skewed: two thirds of the people I talked to are at Georgetown University and, as a whole, students here are much more privileged than the rest of the country financially. And, that’s something to consider. But, based on what I’ve heard, read and learned from reviewing the stats, and especially given the lack of support on a university grassroots level, and the statistics, I’d have to say overall OWS is decidedly not a GenY thing.  Well, at least not a younger Gen Y one.  I’d love to learn what percentage of protesters are between 24 and 30.