Home / Technology / Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary.

Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary.

“I don’t just expect things to unfold, or think, ‘Well, now I’ve got it made,’ because there’s always a turn just ahead of you and you don’t know what’s around that corner,” she said.

Opportunity, but Also Anxieties

On the 10th floor of a downtown office building here on a rainy morning in June, a software development instructor stood in a darkened classroom, the images and words from a screen projection branding his white shirt with the fractured, punctuation-mark language of computer code.

In the classroom, at Ada Developers Academy, the tech school Ms. Boshart attends, were a former motorcycle stunt-rider, a former college counselor, a waitress, a teacher — all women, most in their 20s and 30s, and all there to change careers. It was the day after the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where the victims, as no one needed reminding, were about the same age as everyone in the room.

The students at Ada — Adies, as they affectionately call one other — are in many ways representative of Seattle’s churning, anxious arc of growth and change. The 61 women who have graduated since the school’s founding in 2013 have been drawn here from across the nation and several other countries. Tuition is free for applicants who pass the rigorous admissions process, with costs underwritten by Seattle tech giants like Amazon.

Of the 13 most populous counties in the nation, King County in the Seattle metro area is second only to Brooklyn in the highest percentage of residents age 25 to 34, part of the biggest demographic wave since the baby boom, according to census data. And Seattle is luring those millennials from all over, with King ranking second among big counties in the percentage of people who moved here within the past year from another state.

But even in a place of alluring opportunity, the Adies, like Ms. Boshart, mirror their generation’s anxieties.

Many are terrified of debt and deeply worried about their economic future. Student loan burdens sharply increased nationally during the recession, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, more than tripling to $ 1 trillion from 2004 to 2012. Unemployment for people under 25 is more than twice the national rate, which has made many of those loans harder to pay off. Millennials have postponed marriage and decisions about where to live and what careers to pursue, the Federal Reserve study said, far longer than previous generations, often out of economic necessity.

Hailey Willis, for example, was accepted to Ada and arrived here last year from Chicago with six months of savings to her name. In Seattle, markedly more expensive than Chicago, the money was gone in 90 days. Asked about her financial future, Ms. Willis, 31, said she saw no chance that anything like Social Security would be there for her or anyone her age.

Elsa Moluf, 26, an Ada graduate, said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, still resonated when she thought about personal safety — a feeling compounded recently by a shooting on a Seattle street in broad daylight only a few feet from her. “In the era of terrorism, I think about stuff like, ‘If I go to this crowded festival, what are the chances,’ ” she said.

Baby boomers, to whom millennials are often compared — if only by the force of their numbers — also reached adulthood amid tumult and angst, during the Vietnam War and the struggle for civil rights. But people now in their 20s and 30s say that the 1960s were different, that there seemed to be a clearer goal then — to end racial segregation, poverty or the war. The economy seemed better and the nation’s future more assured. Now, from niche anxieties like genetically modified crops to defining ones like climate change, questions feel open-ended and unprecedented: Is the food we eat still food? How do you get your head around a threat to the entire planet?

Contradictions and paradoxes, millennials say, come with the territory. Ms. Boshart, for example, would love to own a house someday. But at the same time, debt to her feels perilous. “I don’t want to be beholden to any bank, ever,” she said with quiet vehemence. She counts the months until the tech job she hopes to get after Ada can help pay off the $ 22,000 student debt she has left.


Bri Dotson, an Ada alumna, at work at EnergySavvy, a Seattle-based software company. Graduates have found jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $ 90,000. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

And then there are presidential politics, with one candidate, Donald J. Trump, who scares her to death and another, Hillary Clinton, whom she admires but is sometimes hesitant to praise too loudly in an area where most people she knew supported Senator Bernie Sanders. She sees politics through a feminist lens and believes that women’s rights would be undermined by a Trump presidency and a Trump-selected Supreme Court. And even though recent polls and surveys show Sanders supporters largely rallying to Mrs. Clinton, it is not enough to create any sense of security, Ms. Boshart said, that an October surprise of hacked data or a hidden pool of misogyny and rage do not still lie in wait.

“There are just so many things you can be anxious about — it’s an anxious time,” she said. “My biggest fear is that America hates women more than they hate Donald Trump.”

A ‘ Broken’ Political System

Riley Spicer, 26, said she cannot help buying food on sale and socking it away. She arrived in Seattle last year from rural Oregon to start classes at Ada, and she and her boyfriend, Jakob Lundy, 27, a fireman, have planted a garden and started a beehive to harvest honey.

“I had the radishes today in my salad at work,” Ms. Spicer said on a recent evening, as she carefully exposed the leaves to reveal red-topped bulbs. “When I go to the store and I get three bags of mushrooms, they’re like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m stuffing mushrooms and freezing them — doesn’t everyone do that?”

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