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What Are Yuppies?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Yuppies are young professionals who typically live in in urban or suburban areas. The term “yuppie” is derived from “young urban professional,” which just about sums up the major characteristics of the yuppie demographic. Marketers have been studying yuppies and their habits since the late 1960s, although the term “yuppie” wasn't coined until the 1980s. The term has since spawned a number of spin-offs, such as “buppies,” or black urban professionals, and “guppies,” gay urban professionals.

Besides being typically young, usually between the ages of the mid-twenties and thirties, yuppies are also generally affluent, working in well-paid professional positions which may come with benefits. It is common for yuppies to partner with other yuppies, thereby significantly increasing their purchasing power, and many do not have children, which means that they have a lot of disposable income. As a result, yuppies are closely associated in the minds of many people with the acquisition of new toys, from fancy cars to the latest kitchen equipment.

The affluent lifestyle associated with the yuppie demographic includes well-appointed apartments or homes, nice cars, expensive food, and an assortment of luxury goods. Yuppies are also commonly conservative politically, and they are upwardly mobile, working hard to achieve the goal of rising within the class system. Many yuppies work hard to play hard, putting in long hours at work so that they can pursue costly extracurricular activities. They are also noted for a desire to be perceived as individualistic and unique, a trait which is often exploited by advertisers.

It is common to see yuppies in up and coming neighborhoods, which sometimes causes community tensions, as urban gentrification typically displaces minorities and people in the lower classes. Some people also resent the yuppie subversion of their culture and traditions, arguing that an influx of wealthy people into a community can change its character markedly. Opponents of urban gentrification suggest that it promotes homogeneity over individuality, eradicating the very unique characteristics which might have made a neighborhood appealing in the first place.

In some communities, the use of the term “yuppie” is derogatory, and many people in this demographic resent being referred to as yuppies. Yuppies are noted for their strong individualistic streak, and because many are upwardly mobile, some struggle with class issues, sometimes feeling embarrassed about their rise into the middle and upper classes. Others simply feel that the term has negative connotations, thanks to the lampooning of yuppies and their ilk in the media.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon343206 — On Jul 28, 2013

This isn't 1985. Yuppies don't exist anymore. I think most of you posting comments mean "rich people".

By anon282358 — On Jul 28, 2012

"They are also noted for a desire to be perceived as individualistic and unique" Um, yeah, sure.

Perhaps they believe themselves to be this way, but yuppies are the most willingly and unashamedly conformist group in the country.

You're not unique or individualistic if all you aspire to is work behind a desk (albeit with a nice salary), own the latest trendy kitchen appliances, drive a Mercedes or Audi, and raise a couple of spoiled children in a cute suburb populated with numerous families identical to yours.

By JessiC — On Jun 16, 2011

Personally, I would just love to be a yuppie, part of the yippies, buppies or guppies. It sounds like these folks have got it made.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not black so that strikes out becoming a buppie. I’m not a homosexual, so there goes the guppie class. Darn!

As a matter of fact, I’m just plain average and I’m not exactly young anymore either so maybe there is no way for me to ever be a yuppie or one of their many affiliates at all.

That’s okay. I’ll settle for rich old geezer some day.

By blackDagger — On Jun 14, 2011

Well, the term yuppie certainly has a negative connotation in the area in which I reside. The fact is that some people are never going to be well off and they are resentful of people who are.

However, I think that the grand majority of regular folks who have negative feelings toward yuppies are this way because they feel that they are looked down on by these young professionals.

For instance, I live in a small rural community that is sitting right next to a growing urban community. This growth has just begun to really take off in the last twenty years or so.

As a result, many yuppies are going to the growing community to live and so are many jobs for the people of the rural community.

However, the working class folks almost uniformly hate working in this area because of the way they are treated. They claim that they are treated as secondary citizens by a huge number of the yuppie class.

As a matter of fact, when these working folks meet a ‘not uppity yuppie’ they make sure and spread the word as a sort of pat on the back to the individual.

I’m sure not all of the yuppie ilk is this way, but maybe those who are should conduct a self-behavior check on how they treat others. Of course, the yuppie definition itself may hinder this process.

By manykitties2 — On Jun 14, 2011

I find it interesting that there are a lot of blogs and sites now promoting the yuppie lifestyle as a way to craft your own identity. There are guides on which clothes to buy, where to live and what to do to live to your yuppie fullest. The yuppies of today seem proud of their status, and willing to acknowledge their label.

There are some great lists and articles online that you can check out for tips (or amusement), which include things like how to choose the best and most expensive well behaved dogs. Why you should get a Vespa, and how to choose the greatest loft.

I think that there will always be a market for those who are young and affluent. I think that aspiring to enjoy the yuppie lifestyle is no worse than wanting a big house and two cars.

By letshearit — On Jun 14, 2011

There has been a big trend in the reinvention of yuppies and now they are very into the green lifestyle, as it offers them a way to feel like they are individually helping the planet while using their money to support a cause they feel confident in.

If you see the young urban professionals of today, it is not uncommon to see them in their Prius, looking like college students and carrying a cup of fair-trade coffee.

For the new yuppies, throwing their money away on Rolexs just isn't the way to go. After all, when there are so many organic foods to choose from, and ethically sound clothing to pick through, who has the time to shop for a watch?

By Bakersdozen — On Jun 14, 2011

I recently got an invite to an '80s yuppies' party. Half of the men were trying to look like Gorden Gecko of Wall Street film fame, with bling watches and sharp suits. The women all seemed to be wearing blouses with bows and clothes with shoulder pads!

It was great fun, I especially liked the yuppie music with songs from Level 42, Hue and Cry and Norah Jones amongst others. Considering most of us were only babies in the yuppies heyday I don't know how authentic it was overall.

By Bhutan — On Jun 14, 2011

@Sneakers41 - I think that the real estate market has made many out of reach communities more affordable. I wanted to add that I have a sister that is a yuppie and getting a yuppy a gift is next to impossible because they have virtually everything.

They usually have the best of everything so no matter what I get it will never be as good as what they already have. I think that the solution for these people is a gift card. This way they can buy whatever they want and you never have to worry if you disappointed them because they get to pick out their own gift.

I think that it is more thoughtful to actually buy a gift for someone, but it is also riskier and in this case I would avoid the risk.

By sneakers41 — On Jun 14, 2011

@Cafe41 - I agree with you. I think that I was a yuppie when I was younger because I had a successful career and did have all of the latest and greatest luxury goods. Now I am not so style conscious because I have to two kids and they are a little more important, but some people continue the yuppie lifestyle even when they have children.

My sister is a classic yuppie. She drives a luxury car and has two homes, one in New York City and one in Miami. She has an apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan which is known for being an exclusive neighborhood, but lately there have been some apartments that have come up for sale recently that have rivaled some of the poorer neighborhoods in New York City.

It is like a reverse gentrification. People that would not be able to afford this neighborhood are now looking to live there because it is so safe and is becoming more affordable. There are a lot of yuppies in this neighborhood because it is filled with young families with children. It is really a great neighborhood with a lot of great local restaurants. It is perfect if you are a yuppy.

By cafe41 — On Jun 14, 2011

@BrickBack - I understand what you are saying, but gentrification can sometimes be positive. There are many projects that builders are trying to establish in up and coming neighborhoods.

For example, there was a project in a Chicago neighborhood that offered a mixed use building that was partially low income housing as well as luxury housing and offered a few businesses on the bottom of the building.

This allowed wealthy people to live in the same building as people that had their rent subsidized by the government. This was a great idea because it allowed the people that originally lived in the building to stay while the yuppies were offered an opportunity to buy into this unique building. I also think that when yuppies move into transitional neighborhoods the neighborhoods improve their property values because when builders notice a trend in wealthier inhabitants they tend to build more luxury housing and more upscale retailers also take notice and actually set up shop in the neighborhood.

In addition, crime rates usually decline and when

this happens more people visit the area and spend money with the local merchants. So a lot of people do benefit from this trend.

By BrickBack — On Jun 14, 2011

I understand that there is some controversy regarding the gentrification in many urban neighborhoods. Some people feel that with wealthier yuppies moving into the transitional neighborhoods many of the existing members of the community feel threatened.

They are scared that they are going to be displaced in their own neighborhood because the prices of the property will begin to rise and so will the rents in the area. This has happened in many neighborhoods in New York City. For example, Harlem used to be a poor neighborhood and now you have yuppies easily paying $500,000 and up for an apartment in this part of town. There are many other communities within the Bronx and Brooklyn areas that have also experienced gentrification.

In fact many luxury builders are now building expensive apartment buildings in areas that used to be poor. The people that have left these neighborhoods to go to other communities do feel resentful because they were there first and now cannot afford to live in their own neighborhood. It must be hard when that happens because the neighborhood changes and now you have yuppie bars with yuppie music.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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