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"Generation Y" redirects here. For other uses, see Generation Y (disambiguation) and Millennials (disambiguation).

Millennials (also known as the Millennial Generation[1] or Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates when the generation starts and ends; most researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.


Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote about the Millennials in Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069,[2] and they released an entire book devoted to them, titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.[3] Strauss and Howe are "widely credited with naming the Millennials" according to journalist Bruce Horovitz.[1] In 1987, they coined the term "around the time '82-born children were entering preschool and the media were first identifying their prospective link to the millennial year 2000".[4] Strauss and Howe use 1981 as the Millennials' starting birth year and 2004 as the last birth year.[5]

In August 1993, the phrase Generation Y first appeared in an Ad Age editorial to describe those who were aged 11 or younger as well as the teenagers of the upcoming ten years who were defined as different from Generation X.[6] Since then, the company has sometimes used 1981 as the starting birth year.[7] According to Horovitz, in 2012, Ad Age "threw in the towel by conceding that Millennials is a better name than Gen Y",[1] and by 2014, a past director of data strategy at Ad Age said to NPR "the Generation Y label was a placeholder until we found out more about them".[8]

Alternative names for this group proposed in the past are: Generation We,[9] Global Generation, Generation Next[10] and the Net Generation.[11] Millennials are sometimes also called Echo Boomers,[12] referring to the generation's size relative to the Baby Boomer generation and due to the significant increase in birth rates during the 1980s and into the 1990s. In the United States, birth rates peaked in August 1990 [13][14] and a 20th-century trend toward smaller families in developed countries continued.[15][16]

Newsweek used the term Generation 9/11 to refer to young people who were between the ages of 10 and 20 years on 11 September 2001. The first reference to "Generation 9/11" was made in the cover story of the 12 November 2001 issue of Newsweek.[17]

In his book The Lucky Few: Between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom, author Elwood Carlson called Millennials the "New Boomers" (born 1983 to 2001), because of the upswing in births after 1983, finishing with the "political and social challenges" that occurred after the terrorist acts of 11 September 2001, and the "persistent economic difficulties" of the time.[18] Generally speaking, Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers or Generation Xers, while a few may have parents from the Silent Generation.

In 2006, Australian McCrindle Research Center, used 1981 to 2000 as birth dates in a document titled "Report on the Attitudes and Views of Generations X and Y on Superannuation".[19][20] Separately, McCrindle has also defined "Generation Y" as those born between 1980 to 1994.[21]

In 2013, a global generational study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers with the University of Southern California and the London Business School defined Millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995.[22]

In May 2013, a Time magazine cover story identified Millennials as those born from 1980 or 1981 to 2000.[23]

In 2014, the Pew Research Center, an American think tank organization, defined "adult Millennials" as those who were 18 to 33 years old, born 1981–1996.[24] And according to them, the youngest Millennials are still "in their teens" with "no chronological end point set for them yet".[24]

Also, in 2014, a comparative study from Dale Carnegie Training and MSW Research was released which studies Millennials compared to other generations in the workplace. This study described "Millennial" birth years between 1980–1996.[25]

In 2015, the Pew Research Center also conducted research regarding generational identity.[26] It was discovered that Millennials, or members of Generation Y, are less likely to strongly identify with the generational term when compared to Generation X or to the baby boomers. It was also found that Millennials chose most often to define itself with more negative terms such as self-absorbed, wasteful or greedy. In this 2015 report, Pew defined Millennials with birth years ranging from 1981 onwards.[26]

Chinese Millennials (more commonly called the 1980s and 1990s generations there) were examined and contrasted with American millennials at a 2015 #MillennialMinds conference in Shanghai organized by USC U.S.-China Institute (site has video of presentations). Findings included their marriage, childbearing, and child raising preferences, their life and career ambitions, and their attitudes towards volunteerism and activism.[27]

In Canada, the official body of Statistics Canada has declared 1992 as the last year of birth for Generation Y.[28]


Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe believe that each generation has common characteristics that give it a specific character, with four basic generational archetypes, repeating in a cycle. According to their theory, they predicted Millennials will become more like the "civic-minded" G.I. Generation with a strong sense of community both local and global.[3]

Strauss and Howe's research has been influential, but it also has critics.[29] Jean Twenge, the author of the 2006 book Generation Me, considers Millennials, along with younger members of Generation X, to be part of what she calls "Generation Me".[30] Twenge attributes Millennials with the traits of confidence and tolerance, but also identifies a sense of entitlement and narcissism based on personality surveys that showed increasing narcissism among Millennials compared to preceding generations when they were teens and in their twenties. She questions the predictions of Strauss and Howe that this generation will come out civic-minded.[31][32]

The University of Michigan's "Monitoring the Future" study of high school seniors (conducted continually since 1975) and the American Freshman survey, conducted by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute of new college students since 1966, showed an increase in the proportion of students who consider wealth a very important attribute, from 45% for Baby Boomers (surveyed between 1967 and 1985) to 70% for Gen Xers, and 75% for Millennials. The percentage who said it was important to keep abreast of political affairs fell, from 50% for Baby Boomers to 39% for Gen Xers, and 35% for Millennials. The notion of "developing a meaningful philosophy of life" decreased the most across generations, from 73% for Boomers to 45% for Millennials. The willingness to be involved in an environmental cleanup program dropped from 33% for Baby Boomers to 21% for Millennials.[33]

In March 2014, the Pew Research Center issued a report about how "Millennials in adulthood" are "detached from institutions and networked with friends."[24][34] The report said Millennials are somewhat more upbeat than older adults about America's future, with 49% of Millennials saying the country’s best years are ahead though they're the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt and unemployment.

Fred Bonner, a Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair in Education at Rutgers University and author of Diverse Millennial Students in College: Implications for Faculty and Student Affairs, believes that much of the commentary on the Millennial Generation may be partially accurate, but overly general and that many of the traits they describe apply primarily to "white, affluent teenagers who accomplish great things as they grow up in the suburbs, who confront anxiety when applying to super-selective colleges, and who multitask with ease as their helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them." During class discussions, Bonner listened to black and Hispanic students describe how some or all of the so-called core traits did not apply to them. They often said that the "special" trait, in particular, is unrecognizable. Other socio-economic groups often do not display the same attributes commonly attributed to Millennials. "It's not that many diverse parents don't want to treat their kids as special," he says, "but they often don't have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources, to do that."[35]

In 2008, author Ron Alsop called the Millennials "Trophy Kids,"[36] a term that reflects a trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where mere participation is frequently enough for a reward. It has been reported that it's an issue in corporate environments.[36] Some employers are concerned that Millennials have too great expectations from the workplace.[37] Some studies predict they will switch jobs frequently, holding many more jobs than Gen Xers due to their great expectations.[38] Newer research shows that Millennials change jobs for the same reasons as other generations—namely, more money and a more innovative work environment. Millennials look for versatility and flexibility in the workplace, and strive for a strong work–life balance in their jobs.[39] Millennials also have similar career aspirations to other generations, valuing financial security and a diverse workplace just as much as their older colleagues.[40] Educational sociologist Andy Furlong described Millennials as optimistic, engaged, and team players.[41]

In his book, Fast Future, author David Burstein describes Millennials' approach to social change as "pragmatic idealism," a deep desire to make the world a better place combined with an understanding that doing so requires building new institutions while working inside and outside existing institutions.[42]

Political views[edit]

According to The Economist, surveys of political attitudes among Millennials in the United Kingdom suggest increasingly liberal attitudes with regard to social and cultural issues, as well as higher overall support for classical liberal economic policies than preceding generations. They are more likely to support same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana.[43]

The Economist parallels this with Millennials in the United States, whose attitudes are more supportive of social liberal policies and same-sex marriage relative to other demographics, though less supportive of abortion than Gen X were in the early 1990s.[43] They are also more likely to oppose animal testing for medical purposes.[44]

A poll for Reason magazine suggested that millennials were social liberals and fiscal centrists, and the magazine predicted that millennials would become more conservative on fiscal issues once they started paying taxes.[45]

Demographics in the United States[edit]

William Strauss and Neil Howe projected in their 1991 book Generations that the U.S. Millennial population would be 76 million.[46] Later[when?] Neil Howe revised the number to over 95 million people (in the U.S.). As of 2012, it was estimated that there were approximately 80 million U.S. Millennials.[47] The estimated number of the U.S. Millennials in 2015 is 83.1 million people.[48]

Economic prospects[edit]

Economic prospects for some Millennials have declined largely due to the Great Recession in the late 2000s.[49][50] Several governments have instituted major youth employment schemes out of fear of social unrest due to the dramatically increased rates of youth unemployment.[51] In Europe, youth unemployment levels were very high (56% in Spain,[52] 44% in Italy,[53] 35% in the Baltic states, 19.1% in Britain[54] and more than 20% in many more). In 2009, leading commentators began to worry about the long term social and economic effects of the unemployment.[55] Unemployment levels in other areas of the world were also high, with the youth unemployment rate in the U.S. reaching a record 19.1% in July 2010 since the statistic started being gathered in 1948.[56] In Canada, unemployment among youths in July 2009 was 15.9%, the highest it had been in 11 years.[57] Underemployment is also a major factor. In the U.S. the economic difficulties have led to dramatic increases in youth poverty, unemployment, and the numbers of young people living with their parents.[58] In April 2012, it was reported that half of all new college graduates in the US were still either unemployed or underemployed.[59] It has been argued that this unemployment rate and poor economic situation has given Millennials a rallying call with the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement.[60] However, according to Christine Kelly, Occupy is not a youth movement and has participants that vary from the very young to very old.[61]

A variety of names have emerged in different European countries particularly hard hit following the financial crisis of 2007–2008 to designate young people with limited employment and career prospects.[62] These groups can be considered to be more or less synonymous with Millennials, or at least major sub-groups in those countries. The Generation of €700 is a term popularized by the Greek mass media and refers to educated Greek twixters of urban centers who generally fail to establish a career. In Greece, young adults are being "excluded from the labor market" and some "leave their country of origin to look for better options". They're being "marginalized and face uncertain working conditions" in jobs that are unrelated to their educational background, and receive the minimum allowable base salary of €700. This generation evolved in circumstances leading to the Greek debt crisis and some participated in the 2010–2011 Greek protests.[63] In Spain, they're referred to as the mileurista (for €1,000),[64] in France "The Precarious Generation,[65]" and as in Spain, Italy also has the "milleurista"; generation of 1,000 euros.[62]

Generation Flux is a neologism and psychographic (not demographic) designation coined by Fast Company for American employees who need to make several changes in career throughout their working lives due to the chaotic nature of the job market following the Great Recession. Societal change has been accelerated by the use of social media, smartphones, mobile computing, and other new technologies.[66] Those in "Generation Flux" have birth-years in the ranges of both Generation X and Millennials. "Generation Sell" was used by author William Deresiewicz to describe Millennial's interest in small businesses.[67]

According to Forbes, Millennials will make up approximately half of the U.S. workforce by 2020. Millennials are the most educated and culturally diverse group of all generations and they are also hard to please when it comes to employers.[68]

To address these new challenges, many large firms are currently studying the social and behavioral patterns of Millennials and are trying to devise programs that decrease intergenerational estrangement, and increase relationships of reciprocal understanding between older employees and Millennials, while at the same time making Millennials more comfortable. The UK's Institute of Leadership & Management researched the gap in understanding between Millennial recruits and their managers in collaboration with Ashridge Business School.[69] The findings included high expectations for advancement, salary and for a coaching relationship with their manager, and suggested that organizations will need to adapt to accommodate and make the best use of Millennials. In an example of a company trying to do just this, Goldman Sachs conducted training programs that used actors to portray Millennials who assertively sought more feedback, responsibility, and involvement in decision making. After the performance, employees discussed and debated the generational differences they saw played out.[36]

According to a Bloomberg L.P. article, Millennials have benefited the least from the economic recovery following the Great Recession, as average incomes for this generation have fallen at twice the general adult population's total drop and are likely to be on a path toward lower incomes for at least another decade. "Three and a half years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, the earnings and employment gap between those in the under-35 population and their parents and grandparents threatens to unravel the American dream of each generation doing better than the last. The nation's younger workers have benefited least from an economic recovery that has been the most uneven in recent history."[70]

USA Today reported in 2014 that Millennials were "entering the workplace in the face of demographic change and an increasingly multi-generational workplace".[71] Even though research has shown that Millennials are joining the workforce during a tough economic time they still have remained optimistic, as shown when about nine out of ten Millennials surveyed by the Pew Research Center said that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually reach their long-term financial goals.[72]

Peter Pan generation[edit]

American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled Millennials as the boomerang generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.[73]

According to Kimberly Palmer, "High housing prices, the rising cost of higher education, and the relative affluence of the older generation are among the factors driving the trend."[74] However, other explanations are seen as contributing. Questions regarding a clear definition of what it means to be an adult also impacts a debate about delayed transitions into adulthood and the emergence of a new life stage, Emerging Adulthood. For instance, a 2012 study by professors at Brigham Young University found that college students are more likely to define "adult" based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional "rite of passage" events.[75] Larry Nelson, one of the three marriage, family, and human development professors to perform the study, also noted that "In prior generations, you get married and you start a career and you do that immediately. What young people today are seeing is that approach has led to divorces, to people unhappy with their careers … The majority want to get married […] they just want to do it right the first time, the same thing with their careers."[75]

The economy has had a dampening effect on Millennials' ability to date and get married. In 2012, the average American couple spent an average of over $27,000 on their wedding.[76] A 2013 joint study by sociologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that the decline and disappearance of stable full-time jobs with health insurance and pensions for people who lack a college degree has had profound effects on working-class Americans, who now are less likely to marry and have children within marriage than those with college degrees.[77]


In the United States, Millennials are the least likely to be religious.[78] There is a trend towards irreligion that has been increasing since the 1940s.[79] 29 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1981, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948.[80] A 2005 study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that more than half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. One-third said that they discussed religion with friends, attended religious services, and read religious material weekly. Twenty-three percent of those studied did not identify themselves as religious practitioners.[81] A Pew Research Center study on Millennials shows that of those between 18–29 years old, only 3% of these emerging adults self-identified as "atheists" and only 4% self-identified as "agnostics". Overall, 25% of Millennials are "Nones" and 75% are religiously affiliated.[82]

Over half of Millennials polled in the United Kingdom in 2013 said they had 'no religion nor attended a place of worship', other than for a wedding or a funeral. 25% said they 'believe in a God', while 19% believed in a 'spiritual greater power' and 38% said they did not believe in God nor any other 'greater spiritual power'. The poll also found 41% thought religion is 'the cause of evil' in the world more often than good.[83]

Digital technology[edit]

In their 2007 book, authors Junco and Mastrodicasa expanded on the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe to include research-based information about the personality profiles of Millennials, especially as it relates to higher education. They conducted a large-sample (7,705) research study of college students. They found that Next Generation college students, born between 1983–1992, were frequently in touch with their parents and they used technology at higher rates than people from other generations. In their survey, they found that 97% of these students owned a computer, 94% owned a mobile phone, and 56% owned an MP3 player. They also found that students spoke with their parents an average of 1.5 times a day about a wide range of topics. Other findings in the Junco and Mastrodicasa survey revealed 76% of students used instant messaging, 92% of those reported multitasking while instant messaging, 40% of them used television to get most of their news, and 34% of students surveyed used the Internet as their primary news source.[84][85]

Gen Xers and Millennials were the first to grow up with computers in their homes. In a 1999 speech at the New York Institute of Technology, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates encouraged America's teachers to use technology to serve the needs of the first generation of kids to grow up with the Internet.[86] Many Millennials enjoy a 250+-channel home cable TV universe. One of the more popular forms of media use by Millienials is social networking. In 2010, research was published in the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research which claimed that students who used social media and decided to quit showed the same withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict who quit their stimulant.[87] Marc Prensky coined the term "digital native" to describe "K through college" students in 2001, explaining they "represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology." [88] Millennials are identified as "digital natives" by the Pew Research Center which conducted a survey titled Millennials in Adulthood.[34]

Millennials use social networking sites, such as Facebook, to create a different sense of belonging, make acquaintances, and to remain connected with friends.[89] The Millennials are the generation that uses social media the most, with 59% of Millennials using it to find information on people and events, compared to only 29% of previous generations.[90][91] 88% of Millennials use Facebook as their primary source of news.[92][93]

Cultural identity[edit]

Strauss & Howe's book titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation describes the Millennial generation as "civic-minded", rejecting the attitudes of the Baby Boomers and Generation X.[94]

Since the 2000 U.S. Census, which allowed people to select more than one racial group, "Millennials" in abundance have asserted the ideal that all their heritages should be respected, counted, and acknowledged.[95][96]

A 2013 poll in the United Kingdom found that Generation Y was more "open-minded than their parents on controversial topics".[83][97] Of those surveyed, nearly 65% supported same-sex marriage.

A 2013 Pew Research Poll concluded that 84% of Millennials, born since 1980 and then between the ages of 18 and 32, favor legalizing the use of marijuana.[98]

Millennials came of age in a time where the entertainment industry began to be affected by the Internet.[99][100][101]

On top of Millennials' being the most ethnically and racially diverse compared to the generations older than they are, they are also on pace to be the most educated. As of 2008, 39.6% of Millennials between the ages of 18–24 were enrolled in college, which was an American record. Along with being educated, Millennials are also very upbeat. As stated above in the economic prospects section, about 9 out of 10 Millennials feel as though they have enough money or that they will reach their long-term financial goals, even during the tough economic times, and they are more optimistic about the future of the U.S. Additionally, Millennials are also more open to change than older generations. According to the Pew Research Center that did a survey in 2008, Millennials are the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals and are also more supportive of progressive domestic social agenda than older generations. Finally, Millennials are the least overtly religious than the older generations. About one in four Millennials are unaffiliated with any religion, which is much more than the older generations when they were the ages of Millennials.[72]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]