Generational expert Neil Howe thinks Millennials are similar to the Silent Generation that grew up during the Depression and war, but they’re the first generation to be raised with smart phones, six-second Vine videos, and a black president. Raised on the importance of test scores, they value finding the right answer. A multi-cultural generation with a global outlook, their schools teach diversity and non-sexism, as well as working in teams operating with consensus decision-making and compromise. Their desire to think as a group carries over to their social media membership in groups, to workplace teams, approval of a sharing economy—a new form of community, and a desire for politicians to be polite, work together and avoid conflict. It follows that the only bipartisan Millennial advocacy organization, Common Sense Action, was founded by Brown University students to generate a “movement to repair politics.”[i] Chapters spread to 40 campuses in 20 states.
They’re confident they can make a difference because they had supportive parents and grew up in an era that focused on kids and their safety, unlike the latchkey kids in Generation X. Their parents spent more time supervising them than Baby Boomers’ parents and politicians focused on “family values.” Feeling special, they’re optimistic about achieving the American Dream of job, family, and home ownership even though they face the most difficult economic conditions since the Great Depression.[ii] Most (84%) believe they have the skills needed to achieve their career goals although they’re stressed about tuition costs, student debt loads and finding a job that matches their educational attainment. A majority of them are also optimistic about the future of the US, more so than the older generations. They’re more confident that people their age will solve the nation’s biggest problems—48%, compared to 40% of Gen Xers, and only 23% of Baby Boomers. Believing in public service, they know they’re the most tech savvy generation that is able to apply a great deal of information to change the world. Over a third of them have a university degree.
Howe’s surveys find that Millennials are conventional in that they retain close ties to their parents and believe that hard work and following the rules will lead to success.[iii] They like to save money and not take financial risks. In his 2015 survey, 70% said they often seek advice from their parents. Eight in in ten teens report they have no problems with any family member, according to surveys by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. They’re more likely than older people to say adults have a responsibility to care for their elderly parents (84%). Nearly a quarter of 25 to 34-year-olds live in multi-generational households with involved grandparents. A majority of them disapprove of Affirmative Action in higher education and jobs but approve of government providing more services. They don’t differ much from older generations in their attitudes towards abortion, gun control, marriage, and the military. Their views of family aren’t conventional in that around 45% of births to Millennials are to unmarried parents and almost half of people aged 25 to 29 weren’t the head of a family or living alone in 2014. Most of the others were living with parents or friends. They also support gay marriage more than older generations, along with legalization of marijuana and immigration amnesty.
[ii] Neil Howe, “Generations in Pursuit of the American Dream,” Saeculum Research, October 2014.
[iii] Neil Howe et al., “The Millennial Generation: Who They Are and How the GOP Can Connect with Them,” Lifecourse Associates, April, 2015.