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Home > Culture and Society

The Abonimable Yeppie

5 August 2005

Meet the Yeppies: 'Young Experimenting Perfection Seekers', the latest dubious social group identified by thinktank The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC). It's the latest in a long line of contemporary tribes that has included the Yuppies, Buppies, Dinkies, Shrinkies, Tinkiewinkies, Wankies and Nazies (we may have made some of those up.)

The Yeppies apparently 'browse' their way through life, trying different jobs and relationships as they look for their 'perfect' work/relationship set-up. The research calls it: 'life shopping'). The Yeppies have higher aspirations than their
parents and choose not to marry or have children until at least their late 20s. Of course, there's another way to describe the Yeppie phenomenon. It's called 'real life'. And there's a different word for shopping around for jobs - it's known as 'drifting'.

Yeppies are yet another piece of specious social 'research', largely because the Yeppie experience is so commonplace among anyone under the age of 50. Not married at 25? Uncertain about your career? By golly, there's a unique human experience worthy of its own terminology!

Even if Yeppies exist in greater numbers nowadays, a few big changes in society adequately explain them without positing a conscious lifestyle choice. The first is that the economy is more diverse and uncertain, with fewer jobs for life or guaranteed career ladders. There's also the fact that many more women have careers (as opposed to jobs) that they genuinely want to pursue. Of course they're not going to have kids aged 23.

Speaking of which, another big factor is the fact that you don't have to get married to have sex anymore. Nor is there the pressure to get married that there used to be, and far less stigma about being weird (i.e. gay or an old maid) if you're not married. Yeppiedom isn't a lifestyle choice. It's just not living in 1951.

The creators of Yeppies also claim that the (recent) trend for young people to live with their parents longer is also part of the Yeppies' postponement of big decisions.

Leaving aside the fact that in the past young adults frequently DID live with their parents for a longer-than-healthy period of time, the recent cause is more likely to be not being able to afford their own flat. It might even be something to do with the massive expansion of higher education, creating many more people wanting to avoid student debt by living with their parents and studying locally.

The concept of Yeppies is distinctly flimsy. And it's questionable whether the researchers' conclusions even fit their own evidence. SIRC contrasts the situation now - where the 'average' man gets married at 31 to a 29 year-old woman - with the situation in 1971, when the 'average' man would get married at 25 to a 23-year-old woman.

Does getting married about six years later reflect a Yeppie attitude to life - shopping around for fulfilment - or is it just getting married slightly later? If people weren't getting married at all, ever, or waiting until their 40s (which would be a bit odd, admittedly, given most people's desire to have children) we might be talking about a big societal change. But we ain't.

What the Yeppie phenomenon seems to boil down to is this: attitudes and behaviour have changed a bit in 34 years. We don't know whether to spit with contempt at yet more pointless, publicity-oriented 'research', or apply for jobs with SIRC.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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