Who are the “Millennials”?
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, “Anyone born between 1981 and 2000 (ages 18 – 37 in 2018) is considered to be a Millennial… anyone born from 2001 onward will be part of a new generation”.
As stated on its website, the Pew Research Center is a “non-partisan ‘fact tank’ that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.” The Center is a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the primary funder of the Center’s research, analyses and data distribution.
The study cited above was completed between May, 2017 and March, 2018 as a multi-part posting under the topic-heading, Millennials. (Citation: Pew Research Center, “FactTank.com”, Washington, DC. May 5, 2017 through March 1, 2018). The Pew Research Center has a policy of providing its data, including detailed sourcing, analysis, and background material to a wide range of users without charge.
Those born in 2001 and after, for now, are being referred to as “post-Millennials” pending their being dubbed something more specific by researchers, the media and those who do such things.
As the immediate successor to generation “X”, the Millennial generation is also sometimes known as, and referred to by the label Generation “Y”. There are no hard-and-fast dates for which one generation ends and another begins – researchers generally use imprecise dates from one generational cohort to the next.
Researchers, analysts and others generally agree on the following dates as the brackets for the Silent generation, the Baby Boomer generation, Generation X and the Millennial generation:
|Generation||Beginning Year||Ending Year||Length|
|Generation “X”||1965||1980||15 years|
|Millennials||1981||2000 (*)||19 years|
(*) Other sources peg the ending year at 1996 – the above figure is considered the more accurate estimation
Each successive generation, beginning with the Silent generation, has been known for a singular event or happening that pretty much defined it. For the Silent generation, it was World War Two, a grouping of Americans that Journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed “the Greatest Generation”.
For the Boomer generation it was the Viet Nam War that coincided with the turmoil of the 1960’s that resulted in a profound cultural revolution domestically and across the world.
For Generation “X” it was the technological revolution that signaled another cultural shift in the United States that has also become a worldwide phenomenon of itself.
For the Millennial generation? One cannot be sure if there’s been one significant “shaping event” that defines this generation.
The Baby Boomer generation is the only one that has been officially recognized and designated by the United States Census Bureau. The recognition is based upon the now noteworthy surge in post-WW II births in 1946 and a steep decline in the birth rate post-1964. Other generational cohorts do not have the beginning (steep upsurge in baby births) and ending (steep decline in baby births) that are markers of the Boomer generation.
Millennials – Who are they, really?
Depending upon whom you ask, the Millennials may be just the next successive generation to follow in line from previous American generations starting with the Silent Generation – or – they are a new generation that differs greatly in many respects from their predecessors. Opinions vary, from the Millennials being smart, innovative and caring to their being a whole generation and grouping of “selfish slackers” who are both co-dependent (upon their generational peers) and overly-dependent upon their elders for much of their support.
In the May 20, 2013, Time Magazine issue the cover story, titled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation”, opened with:
I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those
younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow… here’s the cold, hard
data: The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three
times as high for people in their 20’s as for the generation that’s now 65
or older (per the National Institutes of Health); 58% more college students
scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982…
The 2013 Time article – penned by writer Joel Stein – went on to cite a whole litany of “statistics”, many negative, that characterized the Millennials, to a great degree, as personas non-gratis unworthy of Americans’ respect. Are Millennials a shining example of civic rectitude or a group of “know”-and- “do” “nothings? As with so much in society the “truth” lies somewhere in between those two extremes.
Author’s Note & Disclaimer
This is the 2nd iteration of this article, the first having been read and returned by the Author’s editor with “notes”.
The Author acknowledges that the previous version of the article was somewhat one-sided and biased against the Millennial Generation. After extensively re-reading the first iteration, the Author realized that he had pretty much adopted the views of the “anti-Millennial” observers/commentators with an over-abundance of gullibility and a dearth of objectivity. Hence, this re-write…
To continue, first a closer look at the Joel Stein-supported negative (for the most part) view, “understanding” and observations of those f*c%ing Millennials.
Stein goes on to write of the Millennials as “selfish” and says of his self-named “Me Me Me” generation that has been, in his opinion “over-influenced by technology”:
…whose selfishness technology has only exacerbated. Whereas in the 1950’s
families displayed a wedding photo, a school photo and maybe a military
photo in their homes, the average middle-class American family today walks
amid 85 pictures of themselves and their pets. Millennials have come of age
in the era of the quantified self, recording their daily steps on FitBit, their
whereabouts every hour of every day on PlaceMe and their genetic data on
23 and Me. They have less civic engagement and lower political participation
than any previous group …
Fact or hyperbole: “…the average middle-class American family today walks amid 85 pictures of themselves and their pets…”?
What is the “average middle-class American family? Today? In the 1950’s?
It is true, however, that the Millennial generation has “come of age” in a time of technological innovation unparalleled in world history. But… do Millennials – all of them to a 99.9% certainty – really “record their daily steps” …track “their whereabouts every hour” … or “keep track of their genetic data” …as Stein so confidently and assuredly proffers?
Doubtful. In the extreme!
Also, it would be nice (and journalistically integrous) if Stein had supported his assertions about the Millennials having “…less civic engagement and lower political participation than any previous group.” But, like with so much in the article, Stein just says some things without citation or supporting data to back up his assertions.
Some generations would say, “How unfair!” – but – probably not the Millennials.
Shortly after the Time article appeared, another writer at the Atlantic Wire (as reported on Slate.com on May 13, 2013) took Stein to task on two fronts. Writer Elspeth Reeve first criticized much of Joel Stein’s “evidence” supporting his “theory” that Millennials as a whole are narcissistic.
The real “meat” of Reeve’s piece, however, was to criticize the long history of articles like Stein’s that portray each successive generation much like Stein criticized the Millennials – “self-involved” and “self-absorbed” to the point of being a group of narcissists writ large.
A closer look at the Reeve piece is instructive if for no other reason than to give a thumbs-down to writers like Joel Stein and others who use a broad brush to paint Millennials in an unbalanced, negative light. Reeve said, in speaking of the spate of Stein-like articles over a long period:
What becomes apparent in all these articles, which go back at least to 1907,
is the egotism not of the accused generation, but of the writer. The writers
invariably fancy themselves part of a generation that, unlike the youth of
today, has deep thoughts and knows the value of hard work…
Reeve then goes on to support the Millennials as something other than narcissistic twits who are a drain on society by continuing:
If one bothers to step outside the cycle of whining, the more honest conclusion is
that today’s kids are pretty great people, especially compared to the rest of us
screw-ups… (emphasis added)
A partial listing of what makes Millennials “pretty great people”, according to Reeve includes:
- Millennials’ observing a “politics of generosity and social-support” (versus the “politics of resentment” that seemed characteristic of the Boomer generation)
- Millennials’ contributions in slashing the Teenage pregnancy rate by close to 50% in less than a decade
- Millennials’ realizing during their lifetime a huge reduction in the overall crime rate nationwide
- Millennials’ having an optimistic view of their future despite coming of age during times of economic crises and uncertainty
On the other side – on a lighter note – some people joke that the Millennial generation – unlike all other generations that came before – were awarded “participation trophies” when competing in childhood sports and games. In prior generations, kids not only had to show up and compete, they also had to either win, place or show in competition to be awarded a trophy, medal or some other reward. Not the Millennials – they showed up and instantly qualified for an award… a “participation trophy” if you will.
True? Probably – as a signpost of inevitable change and a recognition of anecdotal “evidence” that many have no doubt heard in some parental-centric gathering or social setting.
Millennials: By the numbers:
Currently, the Millennials are some 65 million strong. As a percentage, they represent nearly twenty percent (20%) of the population as a whole today. This generation represents the largest grouping by age in American history. In 1981, the onset of this generation, the U.S. population was 229.5 million; at the end marker year of the Millennial generation, 2000, the population was 292.2 million. In the nineteen years between the end of Generation “X” and the start of the Post-Millennial generation, the U.S. population grew by 62.7 million individuals.
To date, the Millennial generation has been disproportionately affected by the “information revolution” that has centered on the marker years of their generation more than any other generation.
Baby Boomers, as a group (born between 1946 and 1964), are a population of 76 million. The first of the boomers reached the traditional retirement age of 65 in 2011 – the last of that generation will reach that milestone in 2029. By that time, the earliest Boomers will have reached the age of eighty-three. Today, the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years, so it stands to reason that a sizeable number of Boomers will die before reaching the higher number of years noted above.
In the U.S., the parents of Millennials are largely members of the Baby Boomer generation. The older group – while sometimes having been referred to, themselves, as a “Me generation” – does not share the three primary characteristics of their children, i.e. grandiosity, lack of empathy, and a need to be admired, as posited by some analysts and observers, including Stein.
On the contrary, those negative characteristics are not found amongst the most noteworthy traits of this parental generation. In no particular order, the most outstanding traits or characteristics of the Boomers are: resourcefulness, mental acuity and focus, strong work ethic, highly disciplined, team players, self-assurance, and goal-centric.
The Boomers, in turn, took many of those seemingly more stellar traits from their own parents who made up the aforementioned Silent Generation. Their generation weathered both the Great Depression and World War II. Nearly all of those who made up the first half of this generation are now dead; those born in the second half of that era are beginning to die in increasing numbers.
The Baby Boomer generation has historically been active and pro-active in the areas of political participation and civic engagement. The Millennial generation, by contrast, has the lowest rates in those two areas of any generational group in history. Some have said that this groups’ eschewing of political activity – down to not casting their ballots – was a significant factor in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Self Esteem: A “Crisis of Identity”?:
The idea of parents and educators “boosting” the levels of esteem in kids came to the fore in the 1970’s. At that time, people wanted to improve the chances of their kids’ future success by instilling in them “self-esteem”. One observer later said:
It turns out that self-esteem is great for getting a job or hooking up at a bar
but not so great for keeping a job or a relationship… it was an honest mistake…
The early findings showed that, indeed, kids with high self-esteem did better in
school and were less likely to be in various kinds of trouble. It’s just that we’ve
learned later that self-esteem is a result, not a cause …
At one time it was said that “…such high levels of self-esteem led nearly an entire generation (Query: referring to the Millennials and only the Millennials?) to places of disappointment when their peers and outside observers failed or refused to acknowledge to Millennials how great they thought they were, giving little acknowledgment to their own (Millennials’) notions of how truly admirable they (think) they are…” – sentiments that to some can seem fairly astounding.
As co-editor of Managing the New Workforce: International Perspectives on the Millennial Generation, Sean Lyons observed:
This generation has the highest likelihood of having unmet expectations with
respect to their careers and the lowest levels of satisfaction with their careers
at the state that they’re at today… It is sort of a crisis of unmet expectations…
So, writer Joel Stein has labelled nearly an entire generation – one of which he is not a member – “narcissistic”. Reading the words of other pundits and observers, in large part, tells us that such a view is more widespread than one might think. Perhaps a closer look at narcissistic traits and behavior is in order.
Recall that Stein cited NIH statistics (as “cold hard data” no less) in his Time Magazine piece: “The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20’s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older… 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982…”. (emphasis added)
Now… the counter-data from… The National Institutes of Health:
First, we show that when new data on narcissism are folded into pre-existing
meta-analytic data, there is no increase in narcissism in college students
over the last few decades. Second, we show, in contrast, that age changes
in narcissism are both replicable and comparatively large in comparison to
generational changes in narcissism…
The source of this contrary view is a 2010 NIH paper that was published in Perspectives in Psychological Science and titled, “It is Developmental Me, Not Generational Me” (co-authored by Brent W. Roberts, Grant Edmonds, and Emily Grijalva). It presents an interesting counterpoint to writers like Stein and other “anti-Millennials”.
As writer Elspeth Reeve (quoted earlier in this article) opined in her piece titled, “Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation”:
Basically, it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young
people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older. It’s
like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are
‘Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee on Walls,
Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Thinking of the Consequences’…
The 2010 National Institutes of Health paper quoted above concluded with:
In turn, when older people are told that younger people are getting increasingly
narcissistic, they may be prone to agree because they confuse the claim for
generational change with the fact that younger people are simply more
narcissistic than they are. The confusion leads to an increased likelihood that
older individuals will agree with the Generation Me argument despite its lack of
empirical support. (emphasis added)
“It’s lack of empirical support…” is the key and operative phrase, one which helps to rebut “pundits” like Time’s Joel Stein. Stein’s article, on some levels, counters his negative narrative to a degree – the thrust of the article, however, casts the Millennial generation as whiners, slackers, and slaves to technology and not much more.
There is, however, a decidedly positive side to Millennials. That side needs to be examined and understood in conjunction with, and counter to the opposite point of view.
Millennials: The Good Good Good Generation:
Millennials are, in all likelihood, the most studied and talked about generation in history. The Millennial generation is the first and only generation in history, to date, to have grown up and come of age in a world that is dominated by technology. The explosion in technology and innovation has shaped and molded their core identities and personalities. Additionally, this “age of technology” has also created lifelong, solid political, social, and cultural foundations unlike those of previous generations.
The positive traits of the Millennials comprise a surprisingly long list. Take, for example, “The Ultimate List of Millennial Characteristics” (luckyattitude.co.uk – Lucky Attitude – Generation Change, November 2, 2018), a piece that lists 24 “characteristics” of Millennials:
The Largest Generation in Western History… The Most Educated Generation in Western History… Technologically Savvy… Civic-Oriented… Conscious… Global Citizens… Entrepreneurial… Flexible… Pragmatic Idealists… Authentic… Transparent… Frugal… “Liberal” … Compassionate… “Progressive” …. Confident… Diverse… Practical and Results-Oriented… Team-Oriented… Non-Religious… Multi-Taskers… Nomadic… Impatient… and… Adventurous…
That’s just one list – of many – all of which fairly-well list the above traits and characteristics as applied to the Millennial generation.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) posted the following on its shrm.org website in December, 2016, in an article titled These 4 Unappreciated Traits in Millennials Can Help Businesses Thrive:
Aspirational – Educated in a “collaborative fashion”, Millennials learned to approach classroom problems and projects as a team; Millennials possess a collaborative nature that can be used to bridge the gap between different generations of workers
Confident – The way in which Millennials have been educated taught them to vigorously defend their ideas and positions; Millennials appear to be bold and confident which makes them more likely to challenge the status quo
Connected & Tech-Savvy – The first “always connected” generation; raised in the exploding “age of technology” and the birth of Social Media, Millennials 100% connectivity connects them to an employer both on and off the clock (“…they treat their hand-held gadgets almost like a body part”)
Open to Change – When compared to earlier generations, Millennials “…are more racially and ethnically diverse and tolerant than older adults’; “…are made up of a higher percentage of black, Hispanic and female workers, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning workers, when compared to older workers” (Pew Research Center 2010 report, “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next”).
The Director of Survey Research at the Pew Research Center, Scott Keeter, has said “Four in 10 Millennials are African-American, Latino or Asian. This fact makes Millennials far more racially and ethnically tolerant than their elders – and far less conservative.” While there have been too few election cycles to make a definitive determination, the Millennial participation in the 2008 Presidential election was significant. The Pew Center’s Keeter continued, “It’s not an accident that we have our first African-American elected President with the strong support of this multi-ethnic generation”.
Millennials as Electorate Participants:
In the 2016 election cycle, Boomers made up 31% of the voting-eligible population. In that year, Gen “X’er’s” made up 25% and members of the Silent generation made up 13% of the electorate. The Millennials were at 27%, just ahead of the Gen X’er’s and a little behind the Boomers. By the time the next Presidential-election year cycle approaches, the Millennials will be the largest generational group in the nation’s electorate.
When U.S. citizens went to the polls in November, 2016, to surprisingly elect Donald Trump as the 45th President, an estimated 62 million Millennials (ages 20 to 35) were of voting age. That number of eligible voters of this singular generation surpassed the Generation “X” of voting age (57 million +/-) by some 5 million. At the time, Boomers as a group of ballot-ready citizens (70 million in number) exceeded the Millennials by approximately 8 million. By contrast, the numbers of Post-Millennials who were old enough to vote was just 7 million.
Going forward into the 2018, mid-term elections, and then on to the 2020, Presidential cycle, Millennials will overtake the Boomers by a slight margin, while the Post-Millennial vote-ready generation will continue to grow. It is going to be interesting to watch to see if being “eligible” to vote will actually translate into the “casting of ballots” by these two ascendant generations.
As writer Tom Luongo recently opined, “Elections are governed by the middle-aged, political movements are sustained by youth.” He went on to state, “It’s no secret that older folks vote in higher proportions than younger. They simply have the most at stake in any election as changes in policy, usually taxes, affect them the most.”
Luongo is a perceptive writer who is himself a member of the Silent Generation. His take on the Millennials and their likely voting preferences in the 2016 Presidential election is worth noting here:
But the big problem for Hillary is those [Bernie] Millennials will not turn out for her.
This is a generation more aware of how screwed they are than mine was. And
while their political identity is in flux – reared on a diet of Comedy Central snark as
a coping mechanism for the lying – they have a near obsession with natural
things… real fiber clothing, lumberjack fashion, farm-to-table food choices, etc.
They’ve turned their Masters of Social Justice into Ph.D.’s in Cocktails,
Cappuccinos and Craft Beers… and bless their hearts. I can finally get a good
whiskey sour when I visit my friends in South Florida. At least some of them are
Their cultural identity is one big cry for authenticity in a sea of smarm.
Hillary’s authenticity gap is simply too big for many Millennials to square
with that value system… (emphasis original; published: October, 2016)
And then… they got Donald Trump in the White House on promises of “Making America Great Again”, “draining the swamp” and “making deals – the BEST deals – for the American people”!
Time will tell how the Millennials, as a group, react to the ongoing drama in Washington, DC. As of now, they remain the most “liberal” (“social liberals”, for the most part) and Democratic (big “D”) of the current adult generations from the Silent generation to the Post-Millennials. While both the Democrat and Republican parties have reason to be wary of the Millennials and their possible impact on ultimate electoral outcomes, the Democrats can breathe a temporary sigh of relief.
In the political realm, the jury is still out on whether the Millennials will continue to be lean toward Democrat positions or if they will take a turn toward Republican positions at some point in the future. One thing seems certain on this front – Millennials will no doubt band together as Millennials rather than pledging their political allegiance to one political party or another. Rather than join an existing “old world” political party, Millennials are more likely to start their own party or, even more likely, band together in one big or many small political movements.
Millennials and the “Crisis of Debt”:
Within the next five to seven years, the Millennials will be a majority of the labor force in the United States. Unlike past generations that have attained such milestone, this generation reaches it with a negative mark on the economy of the day – debt is an overriding factor in the present-day lives of the Millennials. The amount of debt being carried by this generation is quite staggering in contrast with other past generations.
For example, over 25% of the Millennial generation have more than $30,000 of debt, most of it credit card debt. Approximately seventy-five percent have financial obligations, while only twenty-two percent are debt free. Of the 75% with debt, an astonishing eleven percent owe more than $100,000 to creditors. The weight of this generational debt is such that most Millennials are putting off major life events such as marriage, purchasing a home, and starting a family. A contemporary report showed that less than twenty percent of this generation currently have a mortgage or home loan (National Home Mortgage Association, 2017).
The current domestic economic expansion is the second longest in U.S. history – and – it is nearing the end stages where the result of a sharp economic downturn would have a profound impact upon the Millennials. It will be credit card debt, not student loans, that negatively affect this generation more than anything else on the horizon. In this generation, college graduates are carrying more debt than non-college graduates – a reversal of previous trends. Along those same lines, analysts find it surprising that African-American Millennials are highly burdened with student loan debt – over 50% of that group have long-term student loan debt to service.
As far as personal savings accounts, nearly one-quarter of the Millennial generation have no savings whatsoever. Another third of this generation have $1,000 or less in savings, and less than 1% of the total have $100,000 or more saved. Charted, the savings of Millennials looks like the following:
|Amount Saved||Percentage of Group|
|$1,000 – $5,000||23%|
|$5,000 – $10,000||9%|
|$10,000 – $30,000||10%|
|$30,000 – $50,000||2%|
|$50,000 – $100,000||1%|
|Greater than $100,000||1%|
Unexpected financial hardships are particularly threatening to Millennials as a group. Over three-fourths say that an unexpected expense of $1,000 or more would be a financial hardship; that is particularly true for African-Americans and Latinos, but almost all Millennials cannot afford any financial “surprises”.
Last month, an NBC News / GenForward survey reported that the mere fact of having debt has caused members of the Millennial generation to postpone at least one significant life event – 34% have delayed buying a house, 31% have put off saving for retirement, 29% have foregone the purchase of an automobile, 16% have postponed having children, and 14% have put off getting married. Only 44% of the generation say that having significant debt has not caused them to delay, postpone or put off committing to any of the above-listed events.
The survey concluded with the following statement:
Somehow, Millennials overall remain optimistic about the future. Perhaps, that
is because this generation like all the other generations before, tend to live
outside their means through the use of credit and are trapped in the mindless
propaganda of a never-ending party.
Even with a lot of debt relative to savings, Millennials overall remain optimistic
about the future. A majority (58 percent) are optimistic about things like finding
and keeping a good job, paying off student loan debt, and being able to afford
the lifestyle they want.
For the first time in history, the Millennial generation, burdened as it is with student debt and the more traditional credit card debt, has a negative net wealth. At this juncture in their lives, the median net wealth of Millennials is a negative $1,900. In terms of financial net wealth, this generation is being referred to as the “lost generation”. At the beginning of the current business cycle in approximately 2013, the generation had a positive net wealth of $9,000. Just 6 years later, their rapid accumulation of debt – student loans, credit card, and other debt – has reduced overall positive net wealth into a declining and negative figure that should be alarming to them and to their creditors.
Millennials and their parents:
There was a time not too long ago when a central passage into adulthood was the severing of “home ties” and leaving the home of the parents at the end of the high school years. Many kids left home as they went off to college, never to return to the warm fold of the parental household. Today, it is more and more common for young adults to live in their parents’ home for increasingly long stretches of time after attaining their majority.
Today, more than 17% of young adults between the ages of 25 – 35 years are living in their parents’ home. Eight years ago, only 10% of young adults of the same age from Generation “X” were then living with their parents, and in 1964, the percentage of Baby Boomers was even less at 7%. Unemployment in the relative age group is not the cause of such a large percentage of young adults still living at home – only 5.1% of young adults in this group are unemployed, down from 10.1% in 2010. During the period between 2010 and today, the percentage of young adults still living at home rose from 12% to 17%.
Experts point to three central factors that influence young adults’ decisions to live at home – their relative success in the labor market, the cost of living independently and their debt obligations. The more highly educated a young adult, the less likely he or she is to be living with parents for an extended period beyond school. Less-educated young adults are much more likely to be living dependently with parents than are their more educated cohorts. Wages and employment have declined for less-educated young adults since the early 1980’s, while their more highly educated counterparts have experienced an improving job market and pay scale. For young adults with advanced degrees, the positive outcomes are even greater.
Young adults with higher wages, more stable jobs, and other significant benefits are far less likely to be living at home with parents than those of their generation who are less educated. In addition to providing a roof over the heads of their Millennial children, many parents go even further in supporting their adult age children. For a young generation burdened by debt, and effectively precluded from owning a home at an age when others were fairly well settled in, the “run of bad luck” that has beset the Millennials began with the 2008 – ’09 financial crisis.
Credit Suisse’s last Global Wealth Report spoke to the genesis of such “run of bad luck” thesis, in the following manner:
The ‘Millennials’ – people who came of age after the turn of the century –
have had a run of bad luck, most clearly in developed markets. Capital
losses in the global financial crisis of 2008 – 2009 and high subsequent
unemployment has dealt serious blows to young workers and savers. Add
rising student debt in several developed countries, tighter mortgage rules
after 2008, higher house prices, increased income inequality, less access to
pensions and lower income mobility and you have a “perfect storm” holding
back wealth accumulation by the Millennials in many countries.
Housing affordability has reached crisis-levels in the United States, Europe, Great Britain and other areas around the world. In the UK, home ownership for the Millennial generation has all-but-collapsed in the past two to three decades. A recent comprehensive study of “intergenerational fairness in Britain” found that pricing for homes in the UK (both rental properties and properties for purchase) had become so overpriced that members of the Millennial generation have been forced “…into increasingly cramped and expensive rental properties that leave them with longer commutes and little chance of saving for a home”.
Home ownership for Millennials has taken a deep dive between 1984 and 2017 – the following figures highlight the crisis in various regions of the British Isles:
|Area / Region||Ownership % – 1984||Ownership % 2017||% Difference|
For the Millennials, two-fifths of them rent by the age of thirty, double the rate for Generation “X” and nearly four times the rate for Baby Boomers. Millennials spend nearly one-fourth of their net income on housing, a figure that is a full three times greater than was spent by the Pre-WW II generation. Not only are prices rising rapidly, but Millennials are facing longer commute times and smaller living spaces than those of previous generations.
Shockingly, at the present rate a majority of Millennials in Great Britain might not be able to afford a home in their lifetime. Some see the situation as one of inter-generational fairness – or, more aptly, inter-generational Unfairness.
One observer said recently:
The need to renew our intergenerational contract is clear and urgent but
doing so is far from easy. It requires new thinking and tough trade-offs –
from how we deal with the fiscal pressures of an aging society in a way that
is generationally fair, to how we deliver the housing young people need
while respecting the communities everyone values
In the United States, the “crisis” is similar to that in Britain. It is clear in both countries that Millennials represent a “swing” generation where those who came before lived with a different reality than those who populate this latest generation.
Even with full-time jobs, a significant portion of the Millennial generation rely heavily on their parents for financial assistance that goes beyond housing and lodging. Nearly one-quarter of all Millennials who are fully employed nonetheless receive regular financial support from their parents. When juxtaposed with prior generational cohorts, that statistic is fairly astounding – whether due to a “run of bad luck” or because of this group’s heightened sense of entitlement or because they have an unwillingness to seek out and pursue more challenging careers in the sciences or engineering.
The following is a short list of items that parents of Millennials are supporting on a regular basis:
|Subsidized Item or Commodity||Percentage of Group Supported|
|Cell Phone||53% (*)|
|Health Insurance||18% (*)|
|Student Loan Debt||18%|
|Credit Card Debt||17%|
(*) Consider the possibility that these items may be included in group plans
This Millennial generation is the first that faces the prospect of NOT exceeding the levels of wealth and independence that their parents’ generation attained. That “standard” has traditionally been a “marker” from one generation to the next – a succeeding generation is expected to “do better” than the immediately preceding generation.
The nearly 80 million Millennials generally face financial challenges that their parents escaped. Granted, this generation has a level of student loan debt that approaches nearly $1.5 trillion (their parents had cheaper college costs AND the GI Bill to help) but they also have a lower wage level than their parents had.
On average, Millennials earned $40,581 annually in 2013. In 1989, members of the Baby Boomer generation earned a full 20% more (adjusted for inflation) by taking home $50,910 per year at that time. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, adjustments for inflation notwithstanding. The Millennials are the first marker generation to experience that flip in what has been traditional and “normal” for prior successive generations.
Millennials in the Workplace:
There was a time not long ago when most people spent their entire working lives with one single employer – that was how it was, for the most part, with those of the Silent Generation.
That was a generation that for years had no job to “rise-and-shine” for or go to five days a week. That was because the Great Depression of the 1930’s carried unemployment rates upwards of 25% of the workforce at its peak in 1933. In 1940, the unemployment rate still stood at 15% – it would not get down into the low single digits until well after World War II.
The Silent Generation not only endured the depression that lasted for more than a decade, they also went off to war in large numbers not knowing if they’d be coming back. To a lesser degree, the Baby Boomer generation treated the concept of a “life-long career” in a similar manner – large numbers of boomer employees spent their entire careers with just one or two employers at most.
Back in that day just a few decades ago, employers were not highly aware of such concepts as “employee engagement” and “retention” issues.
Today, those concepts are the concern of small and large companies. The boomers are beginning to retire and are now being replaced by the next ascendant generation, the Millennials. As the Millennials grow in the workforce and baby boomers retire, human resources managers will be compelled to develop new engagement models to take into account the wide generational differences between the Boomers and the Millennials.
Millennials – in the workplace especially – are a new “breed”. They are different in significant ways from their predecessor cohorts. They have created a change – some say a “sea change” – in how work gets done. They rely heavily on technology and they work more in teams. They have a mindset that leads them to “give back” in a socially conscious way. When asked, seventy percent of them say that “giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities”.
As a group, they are not so much co-dependents in the strictest sense of the word as they are “co-related” in their working groups. Keep in mind, that one of their hallmarks is a “…desire to be admired” and you understand their particular affinity for one another. Millennial employees have a great interest in performance feedback – not of the “annual review” variety – but feedback NOW. A Millennial wants to know that they’ve done a good job, and they want to know NOW.
Millennials need direction, continuity, and, again, feedback. A “checklist” for Millennials includes:
- Give them checklists
- Offer them plenty of assistance
- Give rewards for being innovative and for taking appropriate risks
- Engage them with frequent, positive feedback (to which they are receptive)
- Recognize that mentorship is important to them – provide them with mentors
- Foster a collegial and team-oriented culture
Millennials are of a generation that has a strong desire to be creative. They’ve had access to cutting-edge technology since they were born. They’ve grown up in an era where information – detailed, complex and “encyclopedic” information – is available instantly. Platforms like Google and Wikipedia make complex searches something of a “snap” to Millennials – and, Millennials eat that up and make practical and valuable use of it on a constant and consistent basis.
As a group, Millennials seem to be more “sensitive” (feelings-wise) than perhaps prior generations like the Boomer and the Silent generations were. H.R. professionals have found that the way in which Millennials are given feedback – how it is framed and delivered – is important. An excellent article – “Don’t be so touchy! – The secret of giving feedback to Millennials”, author Joanne Sujanski observed:
Instead of feeling appreciated, however, the few short accolades of “good job”
were overshadowed in the employee’s mind by the more frequent criticisms
he received – without guidance as to how exactly he could improve… Whether
positive or negative, feedback needs to be structured in a way that leaves no
room for misunderstanding. Feedback needs to be clear and specific to be
effective (emphasis added)
“Engagement” Strategies for Millennials:
The concept of “engagement” is relatively new in Human Resources management practices. Prior to the Boomer generation, it wasn’t even a consideration let alone a stand-alone concept.
As the influence of Millennials in the workplace has grown, so too has the need to pay close attention to issues of employee engagement and retention. While a thorough analysis of “engagement” is not possible in an article of this limited depth, an idea of the “engagement drivers” will be helpful.
A fairly recent study listed the following as a subset of the full list of drivers and threats that the study was measuring: career opportunities, corporate social responsibility, employee health and well-being, employer reputation, learning and development, managing performance, senior leadership and work-life balance. The most important engagement drivers turned out to be “managing performance” and “career opportunities”; the highest engagement threats were “employer reputation” and “managing performance” (the fact that “managing performance” in the age of Millennials registered as both a high-level driver AND threat is significant).
That same study found the following observations from employee respondents on their engagement experiences with employers:
- A “one-size-fits-all” approach to employee engagement is not advisable
- Middle managers should manage employee engagement on a micro scale; the corporation should manage employee engagement on a macro scale
- Baby Boomer employees with > 30 years employment are more likely to be “stuck” with old work habits and expectations and are not flexible to new changes
- Millennial employees with < 5 years employment are eager to learn and develop and are highly flexible to change
- Feedback – negative or positive – is of great importance to Millennials – not so much with boomers
The author of the aforementioned study listed the following as “lessons learned” from the study:
- Generational gaps (between, for instance, Boomer and Millennial generations) do exist – study results show that employee engagement drivers are likely to exist across generations
- The mere existence of engagement strategies is insufficient – the study shows specifically which “engagement drivers” are in alignment (or not in alignment) between Boomers and Millennials
- Managing performance is the most frequent engagement driver – this is especially true for Millennials, not so true with Boomers
- Employer reputation is the most frequent engagement threat – again, more so with Millennials and not so true with Boomers
Finally, companies and managers at all levels would be wise to actively seek methods and processes to successfully manage employee engagement. At the conclusion of the study under discussion here, the author listed the following seven recommendations to effectively and proactively manage engagement and engagement strategies:
- Conduct annual engagement studies
- Ensure transparent processes
- Set appropriate targets and goals for engagement strategies
- Identify key engagement drivers and threats that have significant impacts on a company’s workforce
- Have multiple engagement strategies
- Have assigned engagement “champions”
- Give adequate and proper discretion to managers at all levels
Millennials & America’s Exploding Opioid Crisis:
It is well established that in the first decade of the 21st century the United States is suffering from an opioid crisis of substantial proportions.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox, Demerol, and others. Another powerful opioid, Palladone, was taken off the market in 2005.
The National Center for Health Statistics’ (NCHS) (an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) December 2017, “NCHS Data Brief #294”, showed the breadth and extent of the crisis as of 2016.
The following statistics are revealing:
- 63,600 + drug overdose deaths in the United States
- Age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016 was 21% higher than the rate in 2015 (19.8 per 100,000 vs. 16.3 respectively)
- Among persons aged 15 and over, those ranging in age between 25 and 54 had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths at 35 per 100,000
- Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016:
West Virginia – 52 per 100,000; Ohio – 39.1 per 100,000; New Hampshire – 39.0 per 100,000;
District of Columbia – 38.8 per 100,000; and Pennsylvania – 37.9 per 100,000
On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, zerohedge.com blogger Tyler Durden wrote “The opioid crisis has become a significant public health emergency for many Americans, especially for millennials (emphasis added), so much so that one out of every five deaths among young adults is related to opioids, suggested a new report”.
The cited study – “The Burden of Opioid-Related Mortality in the United States” – was published last Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, found:
- All opiate-related deaths in the United States increased 292 percent from 2001 to 2016
- In 2016, one in every 65 deaths in the United States was related to opioids
- Men represented 70 percent of all opioid deaths by 2016
- For Millennials (ages 25 to 34), one out of every five deaths (20%) are related to opioids
As chilling as the above-related statistics may be, the report goes on to show that the age group between 15 and 24 (Generation “Z”) is the second most-impacted generational cohort after the Millennials – nearly 12.4 percent of all deaths in that group were opioid-related.
One of the Toronto-based scientists that conducted the study stated:
Despite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing the devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the United States… In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to this issue that combines access to treatment, harm reduction and education, this crisis will impact the U.S. for generations to come.
The study in question was conducted over a 15-year period (2001 – 2016). During that period, over 335,000 opioid-related deaths were documented in the United States (deaths that met the study’s unspecified criteria). The number of such deaths in 2001 were 9,489 (33.3 deaths per million population); in 2016, the number was 42,245 (130.7 deaths per million population). As a percentage, the 15-year increase is 345%, a figure that gives a shocking meaning to the term “opioid crisis”.
Blogger Durden closed his recent post by stating, “All in all, the opioid crisis is much worse than we imagined, as millennials are craving, not just avocados these days – but, vast amounts of opioids inducing a tidal wave of fatal overdoses”.
An August 2017 article on the website lakeviewhealth.com/resources/addiction/crisis-millennials/ opened with:
Millennials are often polemically portrayed as being obsessed with technology and themselves… they are frequently derided as immature and narcissistic… While this may be largely based on the clichés of older Americans and age-appropriate behavior, certain issues and attitudes of millennials are different than previous generations. Does this also mean they have distinct patterns of substance use?
[Disclaimer: “Lakeview Health” is a Florida-based for-profit addiction treatment center with locations in Florida and Texas. Its views and opinions – as a profit-centric organization – might be skewed in a direction that supports findings not otherwise found by others – i.e. that “millennials have distinct patterns of substance abuse” not found in other generational cohorts]
The Lakeview article does point to one fact that may support an answer its question concerning “patterns of substance use” in millennials – that is, the millennial generation is the first to have been widely diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD made its debut in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1987, at a time when millennials were first entering pre-school. Since then, ADHD has been increasingly diagnosed (“over diagnosed”, some might say) in the ensuing decades.
The prescription drug Adderall is the most-widely prescribed medication for treatment of ADHD in adolescents and teens. It is often over-prescribed and misused. It is estimated that in 2017 over half a million young Americans were newly-diagnosed with ADHD. How many were prescribed Adderall, or another drug has not been reported.
Marijuana use among adolescents, teens and young adults has also been on the rise in recent years. The use of marijuana by teens is seen by many as a danger signal for brain development and problems later in life for those who start early and use often. Krista Lisdahl, clinical director of the Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Lab at the University of Wisconsin, says that “it is a mistake for teenagers to use cannabis. (The teen years) are the absolute worst time because the mind-altering drug can disrupt development. Think of the teen years as the last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible. It has been shown that regular marijuana use can change the structure of the teenage brain, specifically in areas dealing with memory and problem solving.”
While the statistics concerning the rising numbers of millennials who are succumbing to opioid overdoses are alarming (as are those for all segments of the population), it may be too early in the crisis to point the finger at one, two or several causative factors. Granted, the United States leads the world in many areas and in many endeavors – notably, with a negative caste, gun ownership, gun-related deaths and mass shootings, suicide rates, use of drugs (both legal and illegal) and opioid-related deaths.
How the millennials will pass through the current crisis in drug overdose deaths remains to be seen. Any sentient and caring person would, rightfully, be concerned when a young generation such as the millennials sees a significant proportion of their peers – 20% of all annual deaths – succumbing to opioid use or misuse.
Millennials & Depression, Anxiety and Suicide:
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the premier organization in the United States that exists to shine a light on suicide and preventative measures.
The AFSP website lists the following facts concerning suicide in the U.S.:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States
- Each year, 44,965 Americans die by suicide
- For every “successful” suicide there are 25 attempts that fail
- The annual costs of suicide in the United States are $69 billion
- The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals
- On average, there are 125 suicides per day
- Firearms accounted for 51% of suicides (2016)
- Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women
- White males account for 7 out of 10 suicides (2016)
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age – men in particular
- The suicide rate for the Millennial generation is the highest for all generational cohorts – 1 of 5 (20%) of this age group die by suicide
Reports by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death in individuals ages 10 – 34 and the fourth leading cause of death in individuals ages 35 – 54. Concerning suicidal ideation, the following 2016 statistics are revelatory:
- 4% of adults age 18 and older had thoughts about suicide
- 8.8% of adults ages 18 – 25 had thoughts about suicide
- 7.5% of adults reporting two or more races in their ethnicity had thoughts about suicide
- 1.3 million adults across all age groups attempted suicide
- Another 1 million adults across all age groups made some sort of suicide plan
Today, suicide is the third leading cause of death among Millennials (behind deaths caused by accidents and drug-related deaths). The Millennial generation is one that is coping with dangerous levels of stress, societal stagnation, and the like. Millennials are found to have the highest levels of perceived stress when compared to other generations. Millennials engage in risky behaviors associated with drug use, drinking and driving under the influence, and shaky emotional health, especially among college students in this generational age range.
According to writer/blogger Jewelyn Cosgrove, “Research suggests that suicide rates can be affected by socioeconomic status, employment, occupation, and sexual orientation – most of which are inflamed by the current economic and political environment”. While suicide deaths outnumber the deaths caused by automobile accidents, the amount of money spent researching mental health issues and factors that lead to suicide is paltry when compared to amounts spent elsewhere.
An article in 2017 by Bloomberg reporter Jeanna Smialek titled, Deaths of Despair: Millennials turn to drugs, suicide in unforgiving job market, highlighted the angst that many Millennials are feeling today. She wrote:
The fates of the less-educated and those who graduate from universities diverge In dire ways. Middle-aged white Americans without four-year degrees are at increasing risk of dying, a well-documented trend driven not only by drug use but also by alcoholism, suicide, and slowing progress against heart disease and cancer. Outcomes may worsen further as Millennials grow older.
Researchers, such as Nobel-Prize winning Princeton Economist Angus Deaton (along with his wife Anne Case, another Princeton Economist), wonder why they are seeing increasing trends of rising mortality rates in some segments of society (such as with Millennials and prior cohort generations including the Boomers and Generation X). Both Deaton and Case opine that high school graduates who go straight from high school into the workforce have higher unemployment, weaker wage growth and less chance of marrying than their predecessors and more highly-educated peers.
The problems facing prior generations could intensify for the Millennials and their successor generations because the Millennials majority of them began entering the workforce during the “Great Recession”. They face lower starting wages, tough and worsening job prospects, and the heavy burdens of student debt. If their prospects of marrying follow current trends, then many Millennials will marry late or not at all – this has a double negative impact on them that further dims the future prospects of happiness and prosperity for the Millennials.
Opioid abuse and deaths, along with a rising rate of Millennial suicides and career prospects that fall well beneath those for prior generations – all combined, a seemingly dark future for a generation that some have seen as “lost”.
Millennials – Into the Future:
As of 2017, Department of Labor statistics showed that nearly forty percent of workforce-eligible young adults between the ages of 18 – 29 were then out of work. That is the highest proportion of that age group to be without work in more than three decades. The Great Recession of 2008 – 2009 is largely to blame for this situation.
According to the same study of young adults 18 – 29 years of age conducted by the Pew Research Center, only two percent of males in that age group are military veterans. Compared to the same age group from prior generations, that figure is quite low. Consider that 6% of Gen Xer men, 13% of Boomer men, and 24% of Silent generation men served in uniform at one time. It is generally accepted that military service carries significant benefits for veterans after they leave the service – GI Bill benefits, some VA healthcare benefits, VA home loan benefits, and the like. Not serving in the military can have long-term negative consequences that can be unforeseen.
Despite their having lived and come of age during tough economic and social times, the Millennial generation are seen as an optimistic group. In the cited Pew study, most Millennials descried their generation as having a “unique identity” without actually describing that quality. There is, however, one trait that is especially apt for this generation – technology and their creative and easy use of it in their everyday lives.
While the Gen Xers were of age during the technology revolution – and the other prior generations have had significant exposure to the explosion in technology – only the Millennials have had their “social identities” inextricably linked with that phenomenon is a pervasive way. It goes beyond having laptops, PC’s, hand-held devices, etc. Millennials are living products of the Age of Technology.
The Pew Center’s Scott Keeter had the following to say with regard to the foregoing:
They (Millennials) are the first generation to grow up living and breathing the internet and social media. Gen X had the experience of growing up with technology, but it was much less connected. They had computers… yes.
Internet… Yes. But the kind of peer-to-peer relationships possible now with social media is something Gen X had to learn after they had become adults
Anecdotally, the Millennial Generation may have taken some “cheap shots” by people who don’t really know them all that well. On balance, they are a generation not all that much different than earlier ones. They tend to be socially “liberal” and fiscally “conservative”. They, like all others before them, seek financial and employment security from an early age. They are skeptics when it comes to the pronouncements of governments at all levels, and they trust that their futures will be bright, productive and rewarding.
Are Millennials “different”? Yes, they are – but – not in ways that many have said (more “selfish”, less engaged, not empathetic, etc.). In that sense, it would not be surprising to hear a Millennial say: “leave me alone, watch me, and let me surprise you”.