Demographics are economics.
One way to think about the Great Recession is like a great pause button.
In normal times, millions of people get married in their mid-to-late 20s. They spend lots of money on a wedding. They buy a car, often with a loan. They buy a house, always with a loan. They buy new furniture and appliances. With their time and money coupled, expenses that were once extraneous now feel reasonable. Maybe he was individually satisfied with sports bars and she with Netflix, but as a couple, it makes more sense to watch live sports and TV shows on their new couch, and so they buy cable. They have a kid, or more than a few. You know how the story goes.
DELAY, DELAY, DELAY
Before the Great Recession, young people were already saving many of these activities for later in their lives. The share of young adults (18-29) who were married fell from 59% to 20% between 1960 and 2010. These couples bought houses later, too. "A decline in the incidence of marriage mechanically lowers home ownership," Martin Gervais and Jonas D.M. Fisher wrote in their paper "Why Has Home Ownership Fallen Among the Young?"
In the last few years, young people have even more reason to delay the costly trappings of adulthood. Pinned between rising student debt behind them and scant job opportunities before them, 34% moved back home for a period of time. With access to their parents' garage, they needed (and could afford) fewer cars of their own. Young people now account for a smaller share of total auto purchases than they did just a few years ago.