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 an African-American president. Raised on the importance of test scores, they value finding the right answer. A multi-cultural generation with a global outlook, some of their schools teach about diversity and non-sexism, as well as working in teams operating with consensus decision-making and compromise. Their training to think as a group carries over to their social media membership in groups, to workplace teams, and 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 Brown University students founded the bipartisan Millennial advocacy organization, Common Sense Action, to generate a “movement to repair politics.”[i] Chapters spread to 40 campuses in 20 states.
Gen Y is 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 the previous Generation X. Their parents spent more time supervising them than Baby Boomers’ parents and politicians of their era focused on encouraging “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] Howe’s surveys found most Millennials (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% agree, 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, 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 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%), partly because 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, however, in that around 45% of Millennials parents are unmarried and almost half of people aged 25 to 29 weren’t the head of a family or were living alone in 2014. Most of the other young adults were living with parents or friends. They support gay marriage more than older generations, along with legalization of marijuana and immigration amnesty.
Most of Gen Z use the Internet for research and 41% spend three hours a day on their computers for non-school purposes; most use social media including distant friends.[iv] Twitch and Ustream are popular live-streaming platforms. A UCLA freshman observed, “Generation Z takes in information instantaneously and loses interest just as fast.” Gen Z is less physically active than previous generations leading to an increase in teen obesity. They’re more cautious about revealing private information online than Millennials.
[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.
[iv] “Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials,” Sparks and Honey, June 17, 2014.
WebMD, 2014 survey. http://www.slideshare.net/sparksandhoney/generation-z-final-june-17