Everyone has something to say about Millennials. Most of it is negative. There’s no limit to the complaints our elders have about our narcissism, entitlement, and obsession with our phones. Our predeceasing generations are quick to tell us exactly how unappreciated we are, that we’re tearing down the carefully built institutions that have provided to us, that we’re unnecessarily digitalizing anything we can get our hands on.
I hate us sometimes, too. I do think the work ethic of my peers is a little disgraceful and I could do without the selfies. I know how selfish we can be, myself very much included. But is this overwhelming negative assessment of the entire generation really fair? What are the Millennials really about?
The Pew Research Center has published a series of reports and data on the elusive generation that the New York Times has said “may be the most illuminating literary project of our era.” The Millennial makeup is unlike any generation before it in some ways. According to Pew, we are more racially and ethnically diverse than our predecessors and we are the most politically liberal generation so far. We have been deeply affected by the economic impact of the Great Recession and the social and political impacts of our lifetime’s foreign conflicts. Despite that, we are more optimistic about the economic and political future of ourselves and our nation.
We are very expressive. We have a lot of tattoos, which our grandparents hate. We value individualism, an ironic complaint about us from the Baby Boomer generation, which was famously responsible for the nation’s massive revolution of anti-conformity. These are the same people who marched on Washington and rolled around in the mud at Woodstock, but OK.
Despite our apparent need for social attention, we’re deceivingly private. Millennials may get tats, but 70% intentionally hide them. Most place privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And while we’re much less overtly religious than any generation before, Pew reports that Millennials pray as much as the older generations.
The high Millennial unemployment rate in the first few years on the job market didn’t do any favors for our reputation, but it turns out we actually have our parents and grandparents to thank for that. The Great Recession, triggered by the housing market crash in 2008, plagued the economy right as the first Millennial post-grads were begging for entry-level positions. Speaking of college, the Millennials are the most educated generation in American history, especially with regard to women. Making strides, people.
Finally, probably the most referenced Millennial characteristic: our over-protective parents. We were coddled and never did anything on our own, it’s true. It looks like that’s a minor side-effect of divorce guilt. Our moms and dads just couldn’t keep it together – only about 60% of the generation were raised by both parents. As we begin to see the Millennials start their own families, though, it appears we learned tough lessons from the divorce rates of our Gen X parents. While Millennials are waiting much longer to check marriage and kids off their lists, it’s not hesitation or skepticism. We value parenthood and marriage over financial and career success and it takes longer because we put more consideration into it. Millennials also don’t seem to resent their parents for the nearly inevitable separation rate, we report getting along with our parents better than other generations do.
Every generation has its personality and the Millennials’ has certainly been fussed about non-stop as our elders fret about the future we’re creating. Like it or not, we’re changing the world.