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Generation Why: What has changed with the rise of the Millennials

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Maggie Young
    News Editor

“Millennial” has become a household label for people who are currently between the ages of 18 and 33, but what exactly differentiates Millennials from other generations?

Generation Y or, Millennials, is a label given to most current college-aged students. Millennials were born roughly between 1980 and 1996, though in 2013, Time magazine placed the cut-off at 2000.Many argue that there are very loose boundaries for generation-labelling, with some arguing that the only generation that holds an “official” title are the Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964.

Tom DiPrete, a sociology professor at Columbia University, believes that labels for generations largely depend on the acceptance of those labels by the public and that they are mostly artificial.

“I think the boundaries end up getting drawn to some extent by the media,” DiPrete said in an interview with The Atlantic.Although some may argue that generational titles are not explicit, the past century has seen segments of history that punctuate generations and have given rise to popular labelling.

Those born before 1946 have the most amorphous title, as there are several sources that call it by different names.The most popular and all-encompassing title was coined by journalist Tim Brokaw, who gave the name “Greatest Generation” to those who grew up during the early 1900s, who faced The Great Depression and who fought in WWII.

Other names for this group are the G.I. Generation, the Silent Generation and Traditionalists.

Post WWII are the Baby Boomers, who fought in Vietnam, grew up during the inception of space exploration and who experienced the Cold War. Baby Boomers are the most explicitly defined generation and are largely the parents to Millennials.

Generation X are those born between the 1970s and 80s, also known as Baby Busters, MTV Generation or the Boomerang Generation.

Generation Y, favorably Millennials, grew up during the turning of a century, the rise of the internet and proliferation of technology.

Researchers and speakers Neil Howe and William Strauss cofounded a company called Lifecourse Associates, which studies the histories of American generations across the decades.

The two published a report in 2003 defining specific characteristics of the Millennials.

Special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, achieving, pressured and conventional were the main characteristics they found to be defining traits of Millennials.

“As college students, they [Millennials] may expect faculty and staff to shelter, protect and nurture them,” part of the report said.

Although Strauss and Howe define Millennials as sheltered, they do not underestimate the pressures put on this generation of young people.

A segment under the “pressured” subsection discusses the culture of school and work for the Millennial Generation.

“The elementary, middle, and high school, have had more hours of homework and less free time than any of the previous generations,” the report said.

The American Management Association published an article in 2014 that described the work tendencies of the four different generations currently employed from the Silent Generation to Millennials.

Speaking to the proliferation of global connections due to internet connectivity the article discusses the Millennials’ ability to navigate rapid change and work successfully with diverse groups of people.

“This group is the first global-centric generation, having come of age during the rapid growth of the Internet,” the article said.

Between 2011 and 2012, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) of the University of Southern California conducted the largest global generation study to-date of Millennials in the PwC workforce in order to get a broader picture of millennials worldwide.Over 40,000 employees participated.

The company is based in London and has offices in 776 cities in 159 countries across the globe. It noted that in 2016, about 80 percent of its workforce would be millennials.

Of the 40,000 studied, 75 percent of millennials were unmarried, and 92 percent had no children.

Coinciding with the Strauss and Howe findings, the PwC research concluded that millennials feel that the pressure to work interferes with life outside of work.

“71 percent of PwC Millennial employees (vs. 63 percent of non-Millennials) say that their work demands interfere with their personal lives,” the study noted.

Although the pressure for work is high, this is in the face of an increase in unemployment. A Pew  Research Center study comparing Silents to Millennials found that roughly 78 percent of Gen X, Baby Boomers and Silent Generation men were employed between the ages of 18 and 33, with only 68 percent of millennial men employed at the same age.

Additionally, there has been a drop in employment between Gen X and the rise of the Millennial workforce.

“It [employment] dropped 6 points between Gen X women in 1998 (69 percent) and Millennial women in 2014 (63 percent),” the report stated.

The study also found a stark contrast in the trends of marriage ages and marriage in general.

“About seven-in-ten Millennials (68 percent) have never been married, and those who are married have put marriage off until their later adult years,” the study reported.

The Silent Generation women married at the average age of 21, men at 27. Average marriage ages for millennial men and women are 27 and 29 respectively.

Sixty-eight percent of the Silent Generation had been married by the time they were the age Millennials are now.

Interracial marriage has also increased significantly since the Silent Generation. Ethnic and racial diversity is much more widespread with 43 percent of Millennials being non-Hispanic white, as compared to 22 percent of Silents.

A trend that has decreased significantly, and unsurprisingly, since the Silent Generation is the reading of Newspapers.

Another Pew Research Center Study “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” found that “Millennial’s main sources for news are television (65 percent) and the Internet (59 percent). Lagging behind are newspapers (24 percent) and radio (18 percent).”

This, naturally, is attributed to the increase in technology and the popular streamlined format for news such as the 140-character tweet.The increase in accessibility to news has not, however, caused an increase in political awareness.

A majority of millennials, the Pew research discovered, are politically influenced by their parents. Sixty-one percent of millennials in the study listed their parents as most influential in their political beliefs and action, with 19 percent relying on public leaders and 12 percent on the media.

There has also been a dramatic decrease in the number of voters, with millennial turnout during the 2014 midterm election at 21.5 percent and 19 percent voting in the 2012 presidential election.

So while global awareness and an ability to work with people of varying cultural backgrounds has increased with a boom in technology, civic responsibility is low and fighting against unemployment remains a top priority.

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