Historically, “civic” generations like Millennials, have tended to emphasize distinctions between the sexes, while “idealist” generations, such as today’s Boomers, have advanced the cause of women’s rights. This includes the Transcendental generation that founded the feminist movement in the 1840s, the Missionary generation suffragists in the early twentieth century, and of course the Boomers who revitalized the women’s movement in the 1960s.
By comparison, as Neil Howe and William Strauss, the founders of generational theory point out, the eighteenth-century civic Republican generation, which included many of our Founding Fathers “associated ‘effeminacy’ with corruption and disruptive passion, ‘manliness’ with reason and disinterested virtue.” During World War II, as the men in the twentieth century civic GI generation went into the military, many women went to work in America’s factories, assuming jobs traditionally held by males. But at war’s end, willingly or unwillingly, most of Rosie the Riveter’s sisters returned to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.
By contrast, today’s Millennial women are refusing to accept any restrictions, based on their sex, on what they might be allowed to do and what they may be able to achieve. The result has been vastly improved educational and income opportunities for women and a greater demand for the ability to blend work with the rest of life’s responsibilities and pleasures from both sexes.
Although the civically oriented GI generation was notable for providing equal opportunities for women and men to attend high school, the Millennial Generation is the first in American history in which women are more likely to attend and graduate from college and professional school than are men. In 2006, nearly 58 percent of college students were women. By 2016, women are projected to earn 64 percent of associate’s degrees, 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 63 percent of master’s degrees, and 56 percent of doctorates. These achievements have produced a generation of self-confident women who, unlike many of their Boomer mothers and grandmothers, do not see themselves in conflict or competition with men.
All of this has led some male Millennials to rethink the entire concept of masculinity. It’s becoming increasingly clear, for instance, that male Millennials will take greater advantage of paternity-leave opportunities to bond with their newborn children and support the mothers of those children, when they become fathers. Remarkably, in sharp distinction to the usual partisan rancor these days, polls show that majorities of Republicans (62%), Democrats (92%), and independents (71%) now support the idea of paid paternity leave. The federal budget already includes money to help states start paternity-leave programs. Under pressure from the growing presence of Millennials in the electorate, a paid paternity and maternity leave program is likely to become an employee-funded federal insurance program, similar to Social Security, which could be financed by a small payroll tax increase of about three-tenths of one percent.
The biggest changes for American men will come as Millennials become the predominant generation in the workplace. Economic necessity will force young men to train for and work in a range of careers, such as nursing and teaching, that have previously been seen as women’s work. As the blurring of occupational gender distinctions becomes commonplace, Millennials will demand that employers provide opportunities for more work-life blending. With both parents equally involved in career and family, employers who wish to attract top talent will have no other choice but to accommodate the generation’s demand for such things as telecommuting, flexible hours, and child care. Politicians who support policies designed to encourage the provision of such benefits will receive a positive reception from their Millennial constituents.
The result will be a new national consensus on what it means to be a man or a woman and a new respect for the full participation of both sexes in all aspects of American family life.
Millennials' Belief in Gender Equality
Biggest Cultural Shift of All
Video from Mike & Morley
Millennials firm belief in gender neutrality in roles and
responsibilities will have the most profound effect on culture
of all the generation's beliefs.
The current Congressional debate over Obama’s request to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons embodies the same generational consequences and disagreements as the debate over the United States joining the League of Nations did almost one hundred years ago. The outcome of that vote settled the direction of American foreign policy for two decades, the span of a generation. The outcome of today’s debate may well have the same consequences for shaping the role of the United States in the world for another generation.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson personally led an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to convince the US Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which included the establishment of a League of Nations. Wilson, who firmly believed in compromise and conciliation as the best solution to future disputes between nations, was a member of the Progressive generation, an adaptive archetype similar to today’s seniors, members of the Silent Generation. Wilson told the Senate in July 1919 that "a new role and a new responsibility have come to this great nation that we honor and which we would all wish to lift to yet higher levels of service and achievement". Opposition came from Republican Senators such as William Borah of Idaho, a member of the younger Missionary generation, whose idealist attitudes most resemble today’s Baby Boomers. Wilson’s opponents focused on his idea of a continuing role for the United States in world affairs around Covenant X of the League of Nations, which required all member states to come to the aid of any other member who was a victim of external aggression. The treaty’s defeat caused the U.S. to assume a relatively passive role in international affairs that didn’t end until the Nazi conquest of much of Europe led President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to propose the Lend Lease Act, which Congress passed in 1941.
Now, another Democratic President has asked another Congress divided along generational lines as well as by partisanship to authorize the continuation of the United States’ role as the world’s policeman that has been the national consensus since World War II. The very first vote on the issue in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee revealed the generational split that is likely to continue when the full Senate and House take up the issue. The average age of the seven U.S. Senators voting against the resolution was almost eight years younger than the ten U.S. Senators who voted to authorize the President to use military force. Both members of Generation X on the committee, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) cast bipartisan “ no” votes. The most strident opposition came from GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, born on the cusp of generational change in 1963. He happily embraced attacks from his older Republican colleagues, who argued that his streak of libertarianism would return the country to the isolationist path it abandoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, none of the members of Congress who will cast final votes on the resolution are members of the nation’s largest and most diverse generation, Millennials. The debate comes too soon for them to be eligible to serve in the Senate, but their attitudes and beliefs are certain to have an impact on the nation’s foreign policy in the longer term. Millennials are more likely to support intervention by the United States on behalf of causes than on disputes between nation-states. For instance, only 12 percent of Millennials express support for the United States intervening to promote democracy, whereas 42 percent support using the U.S. military to halt genocide. They are also more inclined to support efforts when they represent the concerted action of allies, rather than a go-it-alone decision by the United States. By a three-to-one margin, Millennials believe that the United States should take the opinion of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions, and about one quarter of them don’t believe the country does that frequently enough.
President Obama’s initial reaction to the use of chemical weapons reflected his sensitivity to these generational attitudes. He was spurred into action against Syria because it violated the prohibition on the use of such weapons by the Geneva Accords of 1925--cause enough in his opinion to warrant retaliation by the United States. When efforts to gain support for such action failed in the United Nations and in the British House of Commons the president decided to turn to Congress and seek its approval as a way to build consensus for the strikes. However in doing so, the administration inevitably had to accommodate arguments that such action was necessary to project our power against rivals such as Iran and in support of allies such as Israel in order to win over support from older members of Congress who tend to see the world through a more traditional, balance-of-power lens.
The push and pull of generational and partisan differences will continue to shape today’s watershed debate over Syria in the Congress. Whether its outcome lasts for decades or is simply another step in an ongoing debate about America’s role in the world in the 21st century will depend on the degree to which its final resolution resonates with the attitudes and beliefs of the Millennial generation that will ultimately determine the nation’s future.
Millennials & Foreign Policy
Why elder statesmen have a hard time embracing leading from behind. Millennials' belief in teamwork and consensus is changing America's approach to foreign policy.
In an age of terrorism, the Millennial generation may well find that elusive balance between security and privacy. They reflect the safety concerns of their GI grandparents, the respect for civil liberties of their baby boomer parents, and mix in their own ethic of fairness and tolerance.
The first four amendments to America’s Constitution were the nation’s initial attempt to find a consensus on where to draw the line between personal freedom and privacy on the one hand and societal safety and security on the other. This debate has been with us ever since and now events, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, or new technologies, such as drones and ever present surveillance cameras, create new concerns over how to find the right balance between these two competing values.
Over the centuries, differences in generational attitudes have caused the nation’s consensus on how to balance this tension to shift. Group and civic-oriented generations, such as the GI generation or "greatest generation," emphasized safety and security. Individualistic generations, such as today’s baby boomers and Generation X, tilted the balance back toward protecting privacy.
Today another civic generation, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, is emerging into young adulthood and, like other cohorts of their type, are likely to once again push America toward a greater focus on security. What may be different this time is that Millennials’ beliefs and behaviors are also likely to create a search for safety as their GI grandparents did, but this push will be accompanied by a strong boomer-esque respect for civil liberties with a unique Millennial ethic of fairness and tolerance.
Millennials have been reared in a highly sheltered and protected manner, earning the sobriquet “Generation Lock Down” from one such parent, writer Howard Blum. In a poignant piece expressing his sadness after the most recent terrorist attack, Mr. Blum wrote that Millennials “are living in the land where Wild Things truly roam.” (He was referring to children’s author Maurice Sendak’s iconic characters.)
The GI generation learned from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that the United States could no longer remain isolated in a dangerous world. In the same vein, shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, and Sandy Hook Elementary School and terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Boston have taught Millennials that they might not be safe doing even routine things in everyday places.
But notably, none of those events seems to have shaken Millennials’ optimism or resiliency. In a November 2011 Pew survey, a clear plurality of Millennials believed that life in America was better rather than worse compared with the 1960s. By contrast, the greatest numbers of boomers and seniors felt that things have declined in America over the past four decades.
Millennials are also more likely to believe than boomers and seniors that America’s best days are still ahead. Since generational attitudes are most impacted by events that occur when each cohort is young and do not often change as people mature, this optimism is likely to persist among Millennials throughout their lifetime, just as it did for the GI Generation.
This Millennial optimism extends to an unwillingness to be cowed by terrorism. A CBS News-New York Times survey conducted in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing indicated that only 1 in 5 Millennials, compared with 1 in 4 among older generations, would be less likely to attend large public events to avoid being injured in a terrorist attack.
In an era of ubiquitous smart phones, soon to be available as hands-free wearable glasses from Google, most Millennials accept the inevitable loss of privacy that comes with the increasing presence of social media. Instead, their concern is how best to manage this curtailment for the sake of increased safety.
History provides a cautionary note on how difficult it can be to find the right answer to this dilemma. The need to protect the country in wartime has been used as an excuse to deprive citizens of their civil liberties more than once. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right to a writ of habeas corpus – the guarantee that an arrested person will be brought before a court or judge.
In World War II, people of Japanese heritage were interned regardless of whether or not they had personally demonstrated a threat to the United States. During the cold war, thousands of Americans had their lives and careers disrupted with unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty. More recently, despite his expressed personal misgivings, President Obama has ordered the killing of American terrorist by a drone strike without due process, let alone a trial.
Has America learned the lessons of these past infringements on rights in dealing with today’s challenges? The “warrantless wiretaps” during the Bush administration and the Obama Justice Department’s recent close scrutiny of reporters’ phone calls to uncover those who may have leaked national security information make it easy to question if it has.
However, the beliefs and behaviors of the Millennial generation provide some hope that America will do a better job in the near future than in the past of adhering to its principles as it searches for a greater sense of security.
According to Pew, only 25 percent of the Millennial generation (as compared with nearly half of older generations) believe that it will be necessary for Americans to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. This does not mean that Millennials are naïve or soft on terror. They are quite willing to utilize the full force of government and to take complete advantage of current technology to deal with the threat, but they want it to be done fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner.
Like other generations, a solid majority of Millennials (58 percent) support national ID cards for all Americans. Two-thirds of them believe that surveillance cameras to combat terrorism are a good idea. And, half of Millennials, compared with 40 percent from other generations, favor government monitoring of credit card sales to help combat terrorists.
As Millennial Tara Marie Rose Hayman commented on Facebook, “at the airport, I would rather have my stuff looked through and everyone else go through that rather than protect privacy and have someone bomb you. It is good to know the intentions of others.”
At the same time, however, less than half of the Millennial generation favor extra airport screening of people of Middle Eastern descent, in contrast to nearly 60 percent of older Americans.
Technologist Pete Markiewicz points out that tracking an individual’s physical and virtual movements can now be accomplished with sufficient mining of cell phone and web data to produce a “lifelog” that Google might use to provide Millennials with a measure of their “personal connectedness” – or police might use to find a terrorist in our midst.
Fifteen years ago, in his book, “The Transparent Society,” futurist David Brin predicted this type of constant surveillance would become part of daily life. His solution to preserving civil liberties in such a world – increasing transparency at the same rate as the growth of personal data – offers a solution that Millennials, with their strong desire to share everything, would embrace.
As Mr. Brin wrote, the central question that must be answered to resolve the privacy/security paradox is “who controls the cameras or the networks and who can access the data.”
In the coming years, to enhance public safety, most Americans will almost certainly accept increased limitations on their privacy. The bigger challenge will be whether the nation can remain true to its democratic values of fairness, openness, and equality as it seeks greater security.
Millennials, America’s largest and most tolerant generation, will be the leading force in determining how well the nation addresses that challenge. Based on their sense of fairness and willingness to work with one another to achieve goals that meet the needs of the entire group, the prospects are good that Millennials will succeed in striking a balance that both provides enhanced security and protects our rights in the future.
at The Christian Science Monitor
Baz Luhrmann’s 3D interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel about the Jazz Age has critics raving about its visual effects and its capture of the cultural zeitgeist of the Roaring 20s. Many critics however have suggested that he jumped the shark by adding rap music from Jay-Z, Will.I.Am, and others to the movie’s musical score. But for those who know their generational history, the linkage is not only appropriate, but right on key.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was the poet laureate for what Gertrude Stein named the "Lost Generation," born in the twenty years before the turn of the 20th century. Entering young adulthood, members of the generation were awestruck by the changes the industrial revolution had wrought in America and eager to find a new path to success in the affluence of the Roaring 20s. The Lost Generation’s music was jazz — considered a dangerous new genre by many older Americans. Born in the bordellos of New Orleans, Jazz and its emblematic dance, the Charleston, encouraged its fans, dressed in daring new colors and styles, to lose their inhibitions in the energy of its syncopated rhythms. The orgiastic parties in Luhrmann’s new film captures this sense of a country gone wild with new riches, searching for a new morality to match more modern times.
The parallels to today’s Generation X are obvious, and not entirely coincidental. Born between 1965 and 1982, this small, frequently criticized generation rejected contemporary mores and unleashed a torrent of economic and personal risk-taking. Whether it was the celebration of Wall Street greed in the 1980s or the dot.com boom of the 1990s, Gen-X’ers saw new opportunities to make money without sacrificing their lives to the drudgery of corporate life. Their music was rap — another supposedly dangerous new genre, born in the urban ghetto, filled with misogynist and sadistic lyrics sung to a pounding rhythm that created a new global culture built around its hip hop beat and its unique style of dress.
It is hardly surprising then, that when Jay-Z was asked to score the soundtrack for The Great Gatsby, he immediately saw the connection between his own life and that of the novel’s central character. Jay-Z agreed to be the executive producer of the soundtrack, telling Luhrmann, “The thing about this story is that it’s not a question of how Gatsby made his money, it’s is he a good person or not? … And all these characters, do they have a moral compass?”
Reaching back into history, the creators of the new movie saw the similarity between the Lost Generation and Generation X, both of which rejected society’s strictures and boldly pursued a hedonistic, personalized path to the future. F. Scott Fitzgerald ends his novel with the immortal line, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” But the past also contains another lesson for the cohorts born in the wake of such nihilistic generations.
Most of America’s GI Generation, called its greatest generation by Tom Brokaw, only felt the riches of the Roaring 20s during their childhood. They came of age in the poverty of the Great Depression and the terror of World War II. Yet they conquered both, went on to live happy, middle class, conformist lives and built most of the corporate and governmental institutions that we live with today.
Like their GI generation counterparts, millennials, born 1982-2003, have found themselves trying to find jobs after entering the workforce in the middle of another economic downturn, the Great Recession. The young lives of millennials were shaped by the terror of 9/11, shootings at schools and movie multiplexes, and bombings at marathons. Yet millennials remain the most optimistic, upbeat generation in America today, confident of their ability to work together to change the world for the better.
When the green light from Gatsby’s dock fades from view as Luhrmann’s film ends, audiences need to remember that thanks to generations like 20th Century GIs and 21st Century millennials, the country’s future is bound to be bright once again.
Baby boomers, growing up in what appeared to be the never-ending prosperity of the 1950s and '60s, were at various times amused, mystified, and infuriated by the economic caution of their GI or Greatest Generation mothers and fathers, often labeling the penny-pinching of their parents “Depression mentality.”
Now, a half-century later, many of those same boomers, perhaps with a greater degree of understanding this time, are watching their own "millennial-generation" offspring (born from 1982 to 2003) develop the same habits of frugality and restraint that the millennials’ great-grandparents did in the 1930s and '40s. This change in attitude and behavior will impact America’s consumer spending and the way businesses and advertisers will need to approach their customers for decades to come.
The notion that millennials are willing to curb their spending might surprise some who have said the generation is self-centered and entitled, but it shouldn’t. The reasons for millennials' financial prudence are clear: Like the GI generation, millennials grew up in a time of relative prosperity, only to face a major economic downturn just as they were emerging into adulthood and the workforce.
Throughout the Great Recession that began in 2008, youth unemployment was almost
always nearly double that for the entire adult population. In January, when the nation’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, it was above 13 percent for those 16 to 30 years old.
In addition, millennials are not only the most highly educated generation in U.S. history, but also the generation with the most-ever student debt. A 2010 Pew report on America’s generations indicates that a majority (54 percent) of millennials had attended college, the first generation to have done that. Unfortunately, college costs and the loans millennials have assumed to pay those costs have risen sharply as well. In 2011, college seniors graduated with an average loan debt of $26,600, up 5 percent from just a year earlier.
As a February Pew report indicates, factors like these have shaped the consumer and financial behavior of millennials across a range of areas, from where they live, to how they travel and how they spend:
Where Millennials Live
More than a few observers have labeled millennials a generation exhibiting an extreme unwillingness to “launch” into full-fledged adulthood. One major reason for this is the economic pain visited upon the generation by the Great Recession. As many as three in 10 people ages 25-34 reported still living with their parents in 2011, something that might have benefitted both millennials and their parents from an economic and cultural perspective but still stigmatized many in this generation among older adults.
Even when millennials have been able and willing to strike out on their own, they have frequently rented rather than purchased their homes, causing some to label them “Generation Rent,” a designation first used in Great Britain, but one that seems to apply to many young Americans as well. As a result of remaining with their parents or renting, according to Pew, homeownership among 25- to 34-year-olds fell from 38 percent in 2001 and 40 percent in 2007 (years when virtually all in that age range were members of Generation X) to 34 percent in 2010.
This is not likely to be the final word on the subject; a 2010 Pew survey of millennials showed that they ranked homeownership behind only being a good parent and having a good marriage as an important value. But when millennials do move toward homeownership in overwhelming numbers, because of their “recession mentality” they are likely to be more cautious about the size and cost of their home and the type of mortgages to which they commit than previous generations have been.
How Millennials Get Around
As illustrated in the 1973 classic film, American Graffiti, at least since the time that today’s senior citizens were teenagers, obtaining a driver’s license and eventually a car and then cruising the city or hitting the highway has been a romantic rite of passage for young Americans. Millennials have become the first generation since the GI Generation for which this is no longer clearly the case. Between 2001 and 2009, young people reduced their average driving per year from about 10,250 miles to around 7,900 miles, a decline of about 23 percent. Economics is certainly a part of it: According to Pew, 73 percent of households headed by an adult younger than 25 owned or leased a vehicle.
By 2011, that number had fallen to 66 percent. As a result, among the households of those under 35, the percentage with outstanding vehicle debt declined from 44 percent to 32 percent between 2007 and 2010. But financial reasons are not the only ones explaining the decline of the car culture among millennials. Car Connection, a publication focusing on automotive research, points to changes in communication technology (the millennials’ preference for social networking lessens the need for face-to-face contact), location (millennials increasingly living in urban and suburban areas where cars are not as necessary to get around) and “eco-friendliness” (millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation) as reasons why millennials drive less than older generations did when those cohorts were the age that millennials are now.
All of this suggests that in the years ahead auto manufacturers and advertisers will have to focus on the values that millennials will bring with them when they buy cars—a desire for high-tech, environmentally friendly, cost-efficient autos that can be customized to the individual preferences of the owner to the greatest extent possible.
How Millennials Buy
In perhaps no other way have millennials imitated their GI Generation great-grandparents financially more than in their attitude toward accumulating debt (other than the student loans that have been forced upon them just to go to college). Pew research shows that the number of young households carrying a credit-card balance has dropped from 50 percent in 2001 and 48 percent in 2007 to only 39 percent in 2010. During that same period, the average credit-card debt declined from $2,500 to $1,700 among those households. As a result, the debt-to-income ratio (outstanding debt compared to annual income) has fallen from 1.63 in 2007 to 1.46 in 2010 within the households of 25- to 34-year-olds. By contrast, among older households it continued to rise slightly during those years (from 1.08 to 1.22). This suggests that for many millennials conspicuous consumption may be a thing of the past. Members of the generation are likely to carefully plan their consumption, avoiding credit whenever possible, buying only those things they truly believe they need, and seeking the best possible value for the things they do purchase.
John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, in their 2010 book, Spend Shift, described how, in the “post crisis” world, consumers would seek products and services that provide both “value and values.”) The millennial generation is driving this change. Businesses and advertisers would be wise to follow where millennials are leading.
In an effort to help the Republican ticket cut into President Obama’s massive advantage with millennial-generation voters, Paul Ryan delivered what may have been his best line of the 2012 campaign in his speech accepting the GOP vice presidential nomination: “College grads shouldn’t have to live out their 20s in childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
One reason why Ryan’s appeal to millennials ultimately failed to have as much impact with them as he anticipated is that it painted an increasingly out-of-date and inaccurate picture of the current status of many millennials who, in growing numbers, are finding work and leaving their parental homes. This may be the first sign that a generation described or even accused of “failing to launch” is now on its way to shaping its own distinctive destiny and that of America in areas such as marriage, family formation, and child-rearing.
On Election Day, millennials—those born between 1982 and 2003—comprised a greater proportion of the electorate than they did in the Obama-mania election of 2008. Those members of the generation old enough to vote gave Obama a 60 percent to 37 percent margin over Mitt Romney, and allowed the president to capture the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and thereby win reelection.
Still, there is a reason Paul Ryan’s comment may have struck home to at least some who listened to his speech. Millennials, to date, have been less likely to strike out on their own than the generations that immediately preceded them. A December 2011 Pew survey showed that, partially prompted by the impact of the Great Recession, nearly one in three young adults 25-34 still lived with their parents, three times the percentage of those that age who did so in 1980.
For a generation with close and mutually supportive relationships with its parents that millennials enjoy, this arrangement was not quite the disaster that pundits and politicians said it was and it now seems to be coming to an end.
This year, the jobless rate of those between 25 and 34 has dropped a little more sharply than it has for the overall population. It fell to 7.9 percent in November from 9 percent in January, compared with a decline to 7.7 percent from 8.3 percent for all workers. As a result of the improved employment picture and continued low home-mortgage rates, twentysomethings and those in their early 30s are moving into their own apartments and buying homes in increasingly greater numbers.
Interstate migration of young people is occurring at the highest rate in more than a decade as well. According to the Census Bureau, the nation has added more than 2 million households in the past year, many of them comprised of young adults. This was triple the annual average for the previous four years.
Now that more millennials are leaving their parents’ home and establishing their own households, one might anticipate that more of them will marry. So far, however, this hasn’t happened. If anything, American marriage rates are continuing to decline. According to a Pew analysis of census data, in 2010 barely half—51 percent—of Americans 18 and older were married in comparison with 72 percent in 1960. Over the same span, the median age for a first marriage had risen from 22.8 to 28.7 for men and from 20.3 to 26.5 for women. As a result, the share of 18- to 24-year-olds currently married dropped from 45 percent in 1960 to only 9 percent 50 years later. Among 25- to 34-year-olds the corresponding decline was from 82 percent to 44 percent. Perhaps most disconcerting, 39 percent of all American adults and 44 percent of millennials agree that “marriage is becoming obsolete.”
Not surprisingly, given the decline in marriage rates, birth rates have also declined and the average age of first-time parents has risen during the past several decades. From a peak of about 4.3 million before the Great Recession, annual births fell to 3.9 million in 2011. Between 1970 and 2010, the average age of first-time mothers rose by nearly four years (from 21.5 to 25.4). The average is closer to 30 on both coasts and among college graduates.
Still, these initial trends may not end up being the final words on the subject. Generational theorists indicate that the millennial generation is a “civic” generation. The last previous American civic generation was the G.I. or 'greatest generation." Like today’s millennials, that generation was forced by events—the Great Depression and World War II—to live with their parents and postpone marriage and family formation for a decade or more before eventually marrying in large numbers and parenting the baby boom generation, the largest cohort prior to the millennials. Nowhere were the hopes of this generation better stated than in the words of a demobilized G.I. in the 1947 Academy Award-winning film, The Best Years of Our Lives: “a good job, a mild future, and a little house big enough for me and my wife.”
In this, as in other aspects of life, millennials may turn out to be a lot like their G.I. generation great-grandparents. The Pew survey indicating that many millennials perceived marriage to be an institution of the past also found that 61 percent of all unmarried adults and nearly half of those believing marriage to be obsolete said they would like to wed.
Another Pew survey found that the three most important life priorities for millennials were being a good parent (52 percent), owing their own home (30 percent), and having a successful marriage (20 percent)—numbers almost identical to those of older generations.
This is not to say that, once they are formed, millennial families will be exactly like those of earlier generations. Millennials have the most gender-neutral attitudes of any generation. They are, perhaps, even the first female-driven cohort in U.S. history. Within millennial households, sex roles, financial contributions, and responsibility for household chores are likely to be more blurred than ever before.
But, as Paul Ryan should have learned, it is far too early to give up on the millennial generation and its chances of living the American Dream. History and the optimistic beliefs of millennials themselves tell a different story.
at National Journal
An August national survey of nearly 3,300 Americans between the ages 18 and 85, conducted by research company Frank N. Magid Associates, details the current composition of the two major political party coalitions that are more distinct from one another than at any other time in the past 50 years--perhaps even since the Great Depression.
In many democracies, political parties represent particular interests: labor or business, specific religions, ethnicities, or regions. In the United States, with its continental dimensions, varied population, and a constitutional system designed to disperse governing power, political parties are historically, and still remain, coalitions of various social groups. No party monopolizes the members of any one demographic, and each party contains at least some representation from all segments of the population.
Once formed, the party coalitions have staying power. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt assembled the New Deal coalition comprised of Southern whites; the "Greatest Generation" children of Eastern and Southern European immigrants; white workers; and urban blacks. This coalition dominated U.S. electoral politics for four decades and restructured public policy domestically, transforming public economic policy from laissez faire to governmental activism; and internationally, moving the nation’s foreign policy from isolationism to interventionism.
But as new generations with new concerns emerged in the midst of the racial and lifestyle changes of the 1960s, the New Deal coalition fell apart. It was supplanted by a Republican coalition that increasingly added two former components of the Democratic coalition—the white South and working-class whites—to the upper-income white residents of suburbs and small towns outside of the South that had been the core of the GOP in the previous era. The new Republican coalition dominated national elections almost as long and shaped public policy almost as profoundly as had the New Deal coalition that it superseded.
But these party coalitions are formed in a nation with a constantly changing economy, political process, and demographic makeup and, consequently, are not permanent. The Magid display very clearly the sharp differences between today’s party coalitions.
The majority of voters who identify with or lean to the Republican Party are males and members of America’s two oldest generations—baby boomers, those in their 50s to mid-60s; and silents or seniors--who together make up 53 percent of Republicans.
The GOP coalition is almost entirely white (81 percent). It is disproportionately southern (38 percent of all Republicans and 41 percent of strong Republican identifiers) and 40 percent reside in small towns and rural areas. Two-thirds of Republicans are married, and three-quarters are Christian; only 7 percent are unaffiliated with any faith. A third of all GOP identifiers and 42 percent of strong Republicans attend religious services at least weekly. And, not surprisingly, 56 percent of all Republicans and 68 percent of strong Republican identifiers are self-professed conservatives.
The Democratic coalition is far different. A majority of Democratic identifiers are women and from the country’s two youngest generations—Millennials, voters in their 20s; and Generation X, people in their 30s and 40s, who in total make up 57 percent of Democrats. Forty-one percent of all Democrats and 45 percent of strong Democrats are nonwhite with about equal numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics.
Nearly half of Democrats live in the Northeast and West, and a disproportionately large number—70 percent—live in big cities or suburbs. Just half are married. Only 57 percent are Christian, and about one in five are either of non-Christian denominations or unaffiliated with any faith. Just 21 percent of Democrats attend a religious service weekly. Slightly more, 24 percent, never do.
The Democratic coalition is, however, more diverse ideologically than the Republican: While a plurality, 42 percent, are either self-identified liberals or progressives, nearly as many, 35 percent, say they are politically moderate.
The United States is undergoing major demographic, economic, and societal changes that have led to this new alignment and will continue to shape the two parties' coalitions. Some of the change—the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the 1930s—was severe and occurred almost overnight.
Other changes, among them the transformation of the nation from a white to nonwhite majority, the emergence of America’s largest and most diverse generation, the Millennials, and a makeover of the U.S. economy, are taking place more slowly, but equally profoundly.
To hold together and expand their coalitions, both parties will need to formulate a new “civic ethos” that addresses the fundamental question of what the size and scope of government should be in this new era.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney recognize this and have used their respective party’s conventions to articulate distinctly different visions and values that they believe should shape and guide America’s politics and government in the coming years.
The party that enunciates this new civic ethos in a way that enables it to build a majority electoral and governing coalition is likely to dominate U.S. politics for the next four or five decades.
In the last half of the 19th century, Horatio Alger, Jr. defined for the American popular culture what it meant to be a young entrepreneur.
Indeed, the writer of popular novels for children showed us through the heroes in his books that poor boys, by dint of hard work and better ideas, became rich and respected. (Note: Alger’s entrepreneur’s club was closed to girls in those days.)
But for those who are tracking this, it is clear that many Millennials (born 1982-2003), who are today’s teens and young adults, have a very different and broader conception of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Members of this next generation are increasingly called “social entrepreneurs.”
This class of business leaders is defined by Businessweek as “enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems such as pollution, poor nutrition, and poverty.”
Although the organizations created by the more than 30,000 American social entrepreneurs are focused on curing the world’s ills, they are not traditional charities. Many, in fact, are designed to make a profit—and as Businessweek reports, represent more than $40 billion in revenue.
Millennial Generation social entrepreneurs often focus on economic development, education, and the environment, issues that are of particular concern to their generation. And, they take full advantage of the social media communication technologies that Millennials use so effectively.
- To improve educational opportunities around the world Richard Ludlow created Academic Earth, a company that provides low cost or free online college education supported by online advertising.
Xavier Helgesen and Christopher Fuchs formed Better World Books, an online bookseller that has donated more than $5 million to literacy programs and libraries.
- To protect the environment while improving the living standards of the poor, Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun started d.light design to provide solar-powered LED lamps to rural families in Third World countries.
Brian Hayden and Duncan Miller founded Heatspring Learning Institute, a company that trains builders to design geothermal heating and cooling systems for homes.
- And, to resist tyranny and promote civil liberties in nations where traditional journalistic outlets are under pressure from dictatorial regimes, Rachel Sterne established Ground Report, an organization that encourages local residents to post their own reportage on her profit-sharing Web site.
These social entrepreneurs apply “a practical but innovative stance to a social problem, often using market principles and forces, coupled with dogged determination that allows them to break away from constraints imposed by ideology … and pushes them to take risks others wouldn’t dare.” Just as the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship suggests, their approach combines the characteristics of Richard Branson and Mother Teresa.
It is not surprising that many Millennials have gravitated toward social entrepreneurship. Generational theorists categorize the Millennial Generation as a “civic generation,” a type of generation reared by its parents to focus on the needs of the group.
In a broader context, this means that civic generations create new institutions, often at the local level, designed to resolve large-scale economic and political issues and to advance humanity as a whole. One notable example of a civic generation is the Republican Generation (born 1742-1766), who created the United States and the constitutional order under which it has been governed for more than two centuries.
The civic GI Generation (born 1901-1924) created the economic and political arrangements that have been in force in the United States since the New Deal of the 1930s. For today’s civic generation, social entrepreneurship is often the social change institution of choice.
If there is any single trait that characterizes the Millennial Generation, it is its desire to leave the world a better place than the one older generations created. To do this, many Millennials have adopted an entrepreneurial approach, but with a key difference. Instead of using entrepreneurism for individual gain, Millennials are using it to solve the problems facing America and the world.
at Huffington Post
Every 80 years, the Supreme Court has decisively entered a sharply divided political process to provide its own answer to the fundamental question of American politics: what is the scope and purpose of government? Each time, it has attempted to reinforce the generational and party alignments of a previous era in the face of challenges from the beliefs and partisan preferences of an emerging civic-oriented generation like today's Millennials (born 1982-2003). But this time, as the 80 year cycle came full circle, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the individual mandate in the 2010 Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") under the taxation powers of the Congress surprised everyone.
As in the past, the generational and partisan composition of this Supreme Court reflects an earlier era. Five of the justices, including a majority of its conservative bloc (Roberts, Thomas, and Alioto) are Boomers (born 1946-1964). The rest are members of the even older Silent Generation (born 1925-1945). A majority are Republicans. Yet in this case, Chief Justice Roberts bucked history and his generation's preference for ideological confrontation in order to preserve the institutional reputation of the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the Court understood the historical and generational trends any ruling to overturn the Affordable Care Act would have had to fight against. Two-thirds of Millennials wanted the Affordable Care Act either to be expanded (44 percent) or left as is (23 percent). By contrast, clear pluralities of Boomers (44 percent) and Silents (46 percent) wanted it repealed. Millennials, however, represent the wave of the future. They now comprise one-fourth of all eligible voters; by 2020 more than one out of three adult Americans will be Millennials. And that Millennial-dominated future is now likely to arrive much sooner as a result of the court's decision.
Because this large cohort is bringing a new "civic ethos" to American democracy, the Court's decision is likely to have far-reaching effects on the future relationship between government and its citizens. Millennials believe that social rules are important but that everyone should have the freedom to choose how to abide by them. They see government as a parent, setting the boundaries of behavior but not dictating it. Two key elements of the Court's decision today reinforce this approach. One upholds the right of the federal government to tax behavior of which it does not approve (in this instance, not buying health insurance). The second denies Congress the right to dictate to the states what they must do with regard to Medicaid. The Millennial civic ethos will use democratic processes to determine national priorities and rules for permissible behavior by both individuals and states, even as it provides incentives for greater individual and local initiative.
With the Court's affirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the country is likely to see this framework used to resolve many of the other policy challenges the country faces. June 28, 2012, will be remembered as the day the Millennial Era arrived in the nation's legal principles as it did in its electoral politics four years ago.
What will American families be like in the Millennial era? Millennials (young Americans born from 1982-2003) are now beginning to marry and form their own families—or at least thinking about it. What will American families be like in the Millennial era? If history and generational theory provide any guide, Millennial families will be very different from the Baby Boomer and Generation X-parented families of the past four or five decades. Social scientists define a generation as the aggregate of all people born over about a twenty-year period in a demographic group. Together those who comprise a generation share a common location in history, and, according to survey research, common beliefs, behaviors, and perceived membership in their generation. Today, another new generation—the Millennial Generation —is emerging into young adulthood. Similar to other generational cohorts before them, Millennials were shaped by both the distinctive pattern of child rearing and the societal events they experienced during maturation. In their case, child rearing emphasized sheltered and supportive treatment, coupled with pressure to achieve and follow well-defined rules. Like their GI or Greatest Generation great grandparents of the 1930s and 1940s, Millennials emerged into a social environment that featured both a sharp economic decline and major international threats that tested their confidence and optimism. All of this is in sharp contrast to the “hands-off” approach that the parents of Generation X (born 1965-1981) took with their offspring or the “permissive, find your own values” methods that the parents of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) employed with their children. As a result of what Millennials experienced as they matured, we can already identify some characteristics of the Millennial families that are just beginning to emerge. · Millennial families will be increasingly diverse in their ethnicity, religious affiliation and practices, and the sexual orientation and lifestyles of partners and those raising children. In fact, Millennial era families will be so varied that it will almost not be meaningful to refer to a “typical” American family. At 95 million, the Millennial Generation is the largest in American history. It is also the most ethnically and religiously diverse. Forty-percent of all Millennials, and about half of those still in high school and middle school, are non-white. Only two-thirds (68%) are Christian, compared with about 80 percent of older Americans, and fewer than half (43%) are Protestant, in contrast to 53 percent of all older generations. About a quarter of Millennials are unaffiliated with any particular religious denomination. The generation’s attitudes on matters relating to family and marriage clearly indicate that Millennial families will reflect their ethnic and religious diversity. Only a scant five percent of Millennials disapprove of interracial marriage and fewer than one in four believe it is important to marry within one’s denomination. Moreover, less than a quarter of Millennials disapprove of couples living together without marriage (22%) or of mothers of young children working outside the home (23%). Even on the the currently most controversial matter, two-thirds of Millennials (64%) believe that gay marriage should be legal, while only a third (32%) disapproves of gay couples raising children. These diverse family arrangements are already reflected on TV sitcoms like Modern Family and Parenthood. In the decades ahead they will be equally common across all of American society. · Millennials will marry at a later age than previous generations. Today, the median age for a first marriage among men is 27.7 and among women, 26. This is about five years older than it was in the 1950s and 1960s for Silent Generation and Boomer men (22.8) and women (20.3). To some degree, this reflects a long-term societal trend of elongating the passage of American youth into adulthood. As far back as the early twentieth century, psychologist G. Stanley Hall coined the term “adolescence” to describe this new life phase. Present-day psychologist, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, suggests the presence of an additional extension of youth into the early twenties which he labels, “young adulthood.” But, later marriages also are a characteristic of “civic generations,” the archetype of both Millennials and the GI Generation. In part this occurs because of the stressful times in which civic generations emerge into adulthood and in part because of the cautious upbringing they received from their parents. Regardless of the reasons, most Millennials will not be bothered by charges or complaints about their generation’s “failure to launch.” They will simply do what comes naturally to a civic generation in an era of societal and economic trauma by taking the time to get marriage and childrearing right. · Sex role differentiation will be minimal, if not nonexistent, and the distinctions between career and family activities blurred in most Millennial families. The Cosby Show and Family Ties, the 1980s TV sitcoms that were the first to depict the rearing of Millennial children, were also among the first in the genre to show families in which the roles of the father and mother were blurred. Unlike the Boomer era sitcoms in which dad went to the office and mom stayed at home to cook and take care of the kids, both parents in the Huxtable and Keaton families were busy and highly successful professionals away from the house and equally successful, busy, hands-on parents within it. The Millennial Generation is the most gender neutral in American history. A Pew survey indicates that 84 percent of Millennials disagree that women should return to their traditional roles in society. One example of how these beliefs translate into significant shifts in society is the ratio of women to men in higher education. By 2016 women are projected to earn 64 percent of Associate’s Degrees, 60 percent of Bachelor’s Degrees, 63 percent of Master’s Degrees, and 56% of Doctorates awarded in the United States. With both parents in most households being equally involved in their careers and families, employers who want to attract capable Millennial workers will have to accommodate the generation’s demand for jobs that offer the possibility of telecommuting, flexible hours, child care, and round-the-clock access to technology, something that will provide a seamless blend between working and raising a family regardless of where an employee may be at any particular time.
What will American families be like in the Millennial era?
Millennials (young Americans born from 1982-2003) are now beginning to marry and form their own families—or at least thinking about it. What will American families be like in the Millennial era? If history and generational theory provide any guide, Millennial families will be very different from the Baby Boomer and Generation X-parented families of the past four or five decades.
Social scientists define a generation as the aggregate of all people born over about a twenty-year period in a demographic group. Together those who comprise a generation share a common location in history, and, according to survey research, common beliefs, behaviors, and perceived membership in their generation. Today, another new generation—the Millennial Generation —is emerging into young adulthood.
Similar to other generational cohorts before them, Millennials were shaped by both the distinctive pattern of child rearing and the societal events they experienced during maturation. In their case, child rearing emphasized sheltered and supportive treatment, coupled with pressure to achieve and follow well-defined rules. Like their GI or Greatest Generation great grandparents of the 1930s and 1940s, Millennials emerged into a social environment that featured both a sharp economic decline and major international threats that tested their confidence and optimism. All of this is in sharp contrast to the “hands-off” approach that the parents of Generation X (born 1965-1981) took with their offspring or the “permissive, find your own values” methods that the parents of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) employed with their children. As a result of what Millennials experienced as they matured, we can already identify some characteristics of the Millennial families that are just beginning to emerge.
· Millennial families will be increasingly diverse in their ethnicity, religious affiliation and practices, and the sexual orientation and lifestyles of partners and those raising children. In fact, Millennial era families will be so varied that it will almost not be meaningful to refer to a “typical” American family. At 95 million, the Millennial Generation is the largest in American history. It is also the most ethnically and religiously diverse. Forty-percent of all Millennials, and about half of those still in high school and middle school, are non-white. Only two-thirds (68%) are Christian, compared with about 80 percent of older Americans, and fewer than half (43%) are Protestant, in contrast to 53 percent of all older generations. About a quarter of Millennials are unaffiliated with any particular religious denomination. The generation’s attitudes on matters relating to family and marriage clearly indicate that Millennial families will reflect their ethnic and religious diversity. Only a scant five percent of Millennials disapprove of interracial marriage and fewer than one in four believe it is important to marry within one’s denomination. Moreover, less than a quarter of Millennials disapprove of couples living together without marriage (22%) or of mothers of young children working outside the home (23%). Even on the the currently most controversial matter, two-thirds of Millennials (64%) believe that gay marriage should be legal, while only a third (32%) disapproves of gay couples raising children. These diverse family arrangements are already reflected on TV sitcoms like Modern Family and Parenthood. In the decades ahead they will be equally common across all of American society.
· Millennials will marry at a later age than previous generations. Today, the median age for a first marriage among men is 27.7 and among women, 26. This is about five years older than it was in the 1950s and 1960s for Silent Generation and Boomer men (22.8) and women (20.3). To some degree, this reflects a long-term societal trend of elongating the passage of American youth into adulthood. As far back as the early twentieth century, psychologist G. Stanley Hall coined the term “adolescence” to describe this new life phase. Present-day psychologist, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, suggests the presence of an additional extension of youth into the early twenties which he labels, “young adulthood.” But, later marriages also are a characteristic of “civic generations,” the archetype of both Millennials and the GI Generation. In part this occurs because of the stressful times in which civic generations emerge into adulthood and in part because of the cautious upbringing they received from their parents. Regardless of the reasons, most Millennials will not be bothered by charges or complaints about their generation’s “failure to launch.” They will simply do what comes naturally to a civic generation in an era of societal and economic trauma by taking the time to get marriage and childrearing right.
· Sex role differentiation will be minimal, if not nonexistent, and the distinctions between career and family activities blurred in most Millennial families. The Cosby Show and Family Ties, the 1980s TV sitcoms that were the first to depict the rearing of Millennial children, were also among the first in the genre to show families in which the roles of the father and mother were blurred. Unlike the Boomer era sitcoms in which dad went to the office and mom stayed at home to cook and take care of the kids, both parents in the Huxtable and Keaton families were busy and highly successful professionals away from the house and equally successful, busy, hands-on parents within it. The Millennial Generation is the most gender neutral in American history. A Pew survey indicates that 84 percent of Millennials disagree that women should return to their traditional roles in society. One example of how these beliefs translate into significant shifts in society is the ratio of women to men in higher education. By 2016 women are projected to earn 64 percent of Associate’s Degrees, 60 percent of Bachelor’s Degrees, 63 percent of Master’s Degrees, and 56% of Doctorates awarded in the United States. With both parents in most households being equally involved in their careers and families, employers who want to attract capable Millennial workers will have to accommodate the generation’s demand for jobs that offer the possibility of telecommuting, flexible hours, child care, and round-the-clock access to technology, something that will provide a seamless blend between working and raising a family regardless of where an employee may be at any particular time.