America’s sluggish economy and mounting debt threaten to change the very fabric of our country as young people delay major life changes. New polling released by the upstart Generation Opportunity reveals the dramatic consequences facing America as the Millennials grow older.

A staggering 77 percent of Americans age 18–29 say they have already delayed or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors, according to a survey commissioned by Generation Opportunity with the polling company, Inc./WomanTrend. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Millennials — whom my colleague Bill Beach and I call the Debt-Paying Generation — will have enormous impact on the country. John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, projects that Millennials will make up 38 percent of the electorate by 2020.

The decisions they make today should raise alarm with all Americans. According to the Generation Opportunity poll results:

  • 44 percent will delay buying a home;
  • 28 percent will delay saving for retirement;
  • 27 percent will delay paying off student loans or other debt;
  • 27 percent will delay going back to school/getting more education or training;
  • 26 percent will delay changing jobs/cities;
  • 23 percent will delay starting a family; and
  • 18 percent will delay getting married.

In presentations Beach and I have done in several cities over the past year (see below), he makes the point that these decision to delay purchases or make life changes will have a profound impact on the economy in the years to come. If young people delay marriage, they’ll buy homes later, won’t make major purchases, and will likely have fewer children.

One factor causing concern among Millenials stems from their deep dissatisfaction toward their current employment. According to the poll, just 52 percent are satisfied with their current jobs.

It’s led to overall angst with the current leadership in Washington — including President Obama, who captured two-thirds of the youth vote in the 2008 presidential election. That appeal is beginning to fade: For example, just 31 percent approve of Obama’s handling of unemployment.

There’s a silver lining for conservatives, however. The survey showed that 76 percent would like to see federal spending reduced, and 69 percent want the federal government to make sacrifices right away.