at Christian Science Monitor
Gymnast Gabby Douglas, runner Galen Rupp, the women's 400-meter relay team: America got a clear glimpse of its bright future at the 2012 Olympics as 'Millennial Generation' Olympians exhibited their unique take on the country’s traditional pride, diversity, and can-do spirit.
Millennials (Americans born in 1982 through 2003) comprised the bulk of the US team that averaged 27 years of age. Their generation’s focus on the success of the larger group was evident in these ways during the competition:
Patriotism without jingoism. Millennials’ pride in their country, without excessive nationalism, was constantly on display in London. A 2011 Pew survey indicated that 70 percent of Millennials describe themselves as “very patriotic,” but only a third said that the United States is the “greatest country in the world.” That contrasts strikingly with two-thirds of senior citizens and half of baby boomers who think America is the best.
Each member of the gold-medal winning US women’s 400-meter relay team wrapped herself in her own American flag and beamed at the scoreboard showing the team’s world-record time, each expressing her pride in competing and winning for the USA. The contrast with the two American Baby Boomer medal winners in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, who raised their fists in a black-power salute as the national anthem played, couldn’t have been greater.
But, Millennial pride-in-country rarely, if ever, became bragging jingoism when Americans won or sour grapes when they lost. Instead, US athletes seemed to appreciate and applaud the efforts of their competitors.
No story better demonstrates the willingness of this age group to cheer for their competitors than that of the men’s 10,000-meter gold- and silver-medal winners, Britain’s Mo Farah and America’s Galen Rupp. The two trained together and, as Mr. Rupp put it, are “brothers.” To Rupp, a victory for his British brother was as good as one for himself.
Diversity in more than name only. The Millennial Generation is the most diverse in US history. About 40 percent are nonwhite. This diversity was reflected in America’s Olympic team as well. Between 30 and 40 team members were foreign born and many were the children of immigrants.
Most dramatically, Leonel Manzano, who won America’s first medal in the 1,500-meter race since 1968, is the son of an undocumented Mexican farm worker.
A US citizen, Mr. Manzano waved both American and Mexican flags to celebrate the two strands of his heritage.
African-American Gabby Douglas became the first black to win a gold medal in gymnastics. She did so in typically diverse Millennial fashion, leaving her Virginia Beach, Va., home to live with a white family in Des Moines so that she could train with a Chinese-American coach.
Girls rule. In 1972, Congress enacted and President Nixon signed Title IX, guaranteeing that women would be treated equally in any educational program receiving federal assistance, including sports.
Never has the impact of Title IX been clearer than in the 2012 Olympics. For the first time, more women than men (281 to 271) represented the US at the Olympic Games. And, US women won almost twice as many gold and total medals than the men.
Participating and doing one’s best is winning. Critics of the Millennial Generation complain that these young people were reared by their parents to expect a trophy just for showing up; they worry that such an approach will produce soft adults who will wilt in the face of stiff competition.
The success of the Americans in the pressure cooker of the London Games should dispel such fears. But it was also clear that the way they were raised made Millennials appreciate even more the Olympic creed that participating and doing one’s best is its own reward. With few exceptions, Millennial athletes regarded winning a silver or bronze medal or just beating their own personal best as almost as much of a reason to celebrate as winning a gold medal.
Millennials are an upbeat, team-oriented, high achieving, can-do generation. Their belief that it’s a victory just to play the game, work hard, and do your best will be a gift that keeps on giving for America as this generation comes to dominate the adult population.
An April 2012 Pew survey indicated that, even confronted with the impact of the Great Recession, Millennials were significantly more likely than older generations to believe that “as Americans we can always find a way to solve our problems and get what we want.”
That optimism, determination, and achievement were on ample display in London during the past two weeks. America is fortunate that this generation moving up to enter far bigger arenas where the stakes for the nation are even higher.
Since at least the time of Socrates, older generations have criticized younger ones for not being as smart, hardworking, polite, selfless, or strong as they themselves were when they were young.
For that reason, it’s hardly surprising that a cottage industry has arisen devoted to attacking the nation’s youngest generation, Millennials (born 1982-2003), as a lazy, soft, self-centered, and narcissistic “me” generation.” Why? Research suggests this tsk-tsking of young adults has found a receptive, albeit selective, audience among older Americans.
Attacks on young people make for provocative media copy and may help sell books or generate publicity for those who find satisfaction in criticizing other generations. But, contrary to these charges, both generational theory and the real-life attitudes and behavior of Millennials demonstrate that, in fact, their cohort is far more accurately described as a “we” than a “me” generation.
Four types of generations have cycled throughout American history.
William Strauss and Neil Howe, the founders of generational theory, know that not everyone in a particular generation can be painted with the same brush.
They make a strong case that both of the two generations that immediately preceded the Millennials—Generation X and Baby Boomers—contain a larger share of individuals who are inwardly focused and self-oriented than does the Millennial Generation.
- Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) were encouraged by their parents to develop strongly held internal values, which, as Boomers aged, gave their lives meaning and on which they continue to be unwilling to compromise.
- Gen-Xers, (born 1965-1981) reared by their parents in an unprotected, critical manner, often became individualistic risk-takers and entrepreneurial adults.
- Millennials, by contrast, are considered a “civic” generation and have historically been group-oriented, problem-solving, institution builders or, in other words, a “we” generation.
- As teens, almost all are involved in community service. Among 2011 college freshmen, 88 percent had participated in such activities while in high school.
- The contribution of these young Millennials to America’s nonprofits is both striking and crucial. In 2008, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Millennials provided over a billion hours of service, worth more than $22 billion.
- Some would argue that as impressive as these numbers may be, much of this teenage community service is actually “forced labor” because it is a graduation requirement at many US high schools and, therefore, will not be sustained once Millennials graduate.
- But, in fact, most Millennials do retain at least this lesson from high school as they age. Among Millennials entering college in 2011, for example, 70 percent said it is “essential or very important to help people in need,” the highest percentage ever recorded.
- After leaving college, 60 percent said they wanted to engage in service to “help the country” and they have delivered on this pledge. An April 2012 Pew survey indicates that 58 percent of Millennials (compared with 51 percent of older generations) had “done volunteer activities through or for an organization within the previous year.
A 2010 Cone Cause Evaluation study found that when deciding where to work, 87 percent of Millennials, compared with less than 70 percent of the overall population, consider the causes a company supports.
Some Millennials are creating social entrepreneurships that let them use their energy and talent in original and imaginative ways.
- For starters, they are creatively solving problems in arenas ranging from the environment to education and from economic opportunity to civil liberties in dictatorial countries.
- Others expect to implement their values when they join more traditional organizations. In either case, more than other recent generations, Millennials will be driven by a desire and a need to make the world a better place.
- This will permeate all aspects of their lives; not only their free time, but their work as well.
Older workers, take heart! And take a page from—or at least understand—the Millennials playbook.
Traditional or social entrepreneurs who recognize the Millennial Generation is a “we” rather than a “me” generation, and operate on that basis, will be in the best position to compete and prosper in the Millennial era ahead.
How Millennial are you?
To find out, take this quiz, courtesy of Pew Research:pewresearch.org/millennials/quiz.
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.
In the mid-1950s, the McGuire Sisters’ version of Johnny Mercer’s song about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object made it to number five on the record charts. Their prediction, that “Something’s Gotta Give,” provides an apt description of the outcome of today’s battle between the parents of Millennials who want more say in their children’s education and the teacher unions and school district administrators who refuse to give up a smidgeon of control over the public schools they run.
One of the hottest battle fronts in the war between these two forces has been debates over whether to adopt “Parent Trigger” laws, similar to those passed in California in 2010. Such legislation empowers the majority of parents in any school district deemed to be “failing,” according to the federal No Child Left Behind standards, to essentially reconstitute the school according to parents’ desires either by turning it into a charter school or removing and replacing all current teachers and administrators.
Since 2010, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana have passed similar legislation and it is up for debate in major industrial states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. In Florida, the idea came within one vote of passage in the State Senate thanks to the enthusiastic support of former Florida Republican Governor, Jeb Bush. At the same time, such Democratic stalwarts as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and liberal Congressman George Miller (D-CA) have expressed their strong support for the concept.
Most recently, the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution in support of Parent Trigger laws. Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, chairman of both the Mayor’s Conference and the upcoming Democratic National Convention, led the charge for the resolution’s passage, aided by strong support from Democratic Mayors such as Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.
None of this has softened the resistance from teacher unions, historically a bulkwark of Democratic support. Often led by unreconstructed Boomer liberals from the 1960s, they see the law’s emphasis on parental prerogatives as the ultimate threat to their control of the classroom and educational budgets. In the most recent battle, unions were able to pressure Change.org, a for profit, grass roots website “staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country,” to bar StudentsFirst, an advocacy group run by Democrat Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. School Superintendent, that supports giving parents more control over the schools their children attend, from using its website.
And when the chief press person for Parent Revolution, the non-profit that is the primary driver behind the adoption of Parent Trigger laws, was announced as the new education media spokesperson by Obama’s re-election campaign, teachers' unions threatened to withhold their support of the president.
In the long run, the implacable objections of the unions to parents having more say over the type of education their own children will fail. They will prove no match for the irresistible force of generational change that is already sweeping away existing institutional power structures in schools across the country.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Millennials, born 1982-2003, is the intense interest their parents take in every aspect of their children’s lives. This desire to constantly hover over their offspring earned parents of older Millennials (those now in their twenties) the sobriquet, “helicopter parents.” The younger half of the Millennial Generation, which accounts for most elementary and all secondary school students today is primarily parented by members of the more entrepreneurial Generation X (born 1965-1981). These parents replaced their Boomer predecessors’ tendency to hover and talk with a desire to take action and change bottom-line results.
Millennials are the largest, most diverse generation in American history, and many of them are now starting to have children of their own. When those children begin arriving in the nation’s schools, Millennial Generation parents will bring the same dedication that their own parents exhibited to making sure each school serves their child’s interests first. As a result, it won’t be long before the same rights California, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana parents now have are given to every parent in the country. As Ben Austin, the founder of the Parent Revolution points out, “the old coalitions don’t apply here; it’s a cause that unites parents from upper-middle-class and working-class backgrounds—white, black, and Latino alike.”
The type of generational change America will experience over the next few decades will drive the transformation of America’s educational institutions and overwhelm those who attempt to keep parents from deciding what kind of school their kids go to. When push comes to shove, something’s gotta give. And, in the end, that means that those who stand for the status quo in our nation’s schools will have to give up their traditional prerogatives and let parents choose the educational experience they think is best for their own children.
at Politico/The Arena
In this week’s Newsweek, Paul Begala suggests that the 2012 presidential election will be decided by “swing voters” in six battleground states — Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado. But his definition of such voters is so out of synch with reputable polling data that the wiliest of Democratic political operatives must have been trying to fake out Republican readers of this piece rather than reveal the real Obama campaign strategy to Newsweek’s readers.
Begala identifies 916,643 “swing voters” as the 2% of the electorate in each of the six states who have not yet decided how to vote. He makes it clear that his pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, will spend $2,181.87 to reach and presumably persuade each of the decisive voters, which is undoubtedly true. But then he gives a head fake to anyone trying to divine the super PAC’s real intentions by saying these undecided voters are disproportionately women, young voters, and Latino. Although it is true that these demographic groups are usually considered to be the most open to commercial advertising, there is little evidence in recent survey data that the relatively few “swing voters” within the electorate come primarily from these demographic groups.
For instance, the most recent Pew Research Center national survey provides analysts with an operational definition that Begala could have used. Using their data, “swing voters” would be comprised of either those who prefer a candidate other than Barack Obama or Mitt Romney; or those who say they are now undecided in the presidential election; or those who refused to answer the vote intention question. By this definition, “swing voters” comprise 6% of the total electorate in the Pew data. Contrary to Begala’s description, men (7%) and women (6%) are equally likely to be in this category. Older people are far more often “swing voters” than are younger members of the electorate. Among Baby Boomers (those 50-64), 9% are “swing voters,” while within the “Silent Generation” (those 65 years old and over), 7% meet this definition. By contrast, among Millennials (those 18-29), just 1% would be considered a “swing voter.” According to Pew’s results, older white folks of either sex (but especially older white women) are most likely to be “swing voters,” rather than young minorities. In fact, in the Pew survey, Millennials preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a 1.65:1 margin (61% to 37%) — by far the biggest spread between the two candidates within any age cohort.
One can only assume Begala described swing voters in the way that he did to trick Republicans into wasting their money on ads designed to persuade the least likely to be persuaded demographic groups. If Republicans fall for his head fake, the Obama campaign will run right past them and stuff the ball into the basket for a clear victory in November.
at National Journal
Americans have been of two minds about immigration almost since the founding of the Republic. On the one hand, we swell with pride at the welcoming words of Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty sonnet: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” and coverage of the swearing in of new citizens from around the globe has become a staple of July Fourth television newscasts.
By contrast, each new large wave of newcomers has led to the emergence of nativist groups and to laws designed to minimize immigration. The arrival of millions of German and Irish immigrants before the Civil War led to the creation of the anti-immigrant Order of the Star Spangled Banner and the electoral successes of the American (or Know Nothing) Party in 1854 and 1856. The waves of Eastern and Southern European immigrants in the late-19th and early-20th centuries produced a revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the passage of a 1924 law, which imposed low nationality quotas on immigrants from that part of Europe as well as Asia and Africa.
But history also indicates that, although mixed attitudes about it may endure, concern with immigration and fear of immigrants rises and falls as new generations with different attitudes emerge.
A February national survey of nearly 1,500 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64, conducted by communication research firm Frank N. Magid Associates, suggests that the United States is about to enter a period in which the debate about immigration should become less contentious, primarily because of the increasing presence within the electorate of the tolerant and diverse Millennial generation, a cohort now in its teens and 20s. Millennials will represent one out of every three eligible voters by the end of this decade.
According to Magid, about three in 10 Americans are completely opposed to all immigration—legal and illegal—while an identical number perceive a need for even undocumented immigration, believing that “the United States needs illegal immigrants to do work others won’t.”
The attitudes of other Americans fall between these extremes. The majority agree that “immigration has made America a great country” and that “immigration is an American legacy worth keeping.” About 43 percent would favor making their community “immigrant friendly.” At the same time, 71 percent say that while they favor legal immigration, “illegal immigration is out of control.” Just over 40 percent agrees that “immigration is making America worse,” while only 30 percent disagrees.
Millennials, on the other hand, tend to be more positive about immigrants. For most Millennials, immigration is not an abstract or academic matter. It is as up close and personal as their parents, their friends, their classmates, and their next-door neighbors. Nearly one out of five of them have at least one immigrant parent, and almost 30 percent of millennials are Hispanic or Asian—groups containing large numbers of recent immigrants.
As a result, Millennials agree more strongly than older generations that “immigration is an American legacy worth keeping,” 57 percent to 52 percent. The majority, 51 percent, also agrees that their community should be “immigrant friendly,” compared with 39 percent of older generations.
They are also less likely to believe than their elders that “illegal immigration is out of control,” 67 percent to 75 percent. Millennials are also likely to accept the proposition that the country “needs illegal immigrants to do the work others won’t,” 37 percent to 22 percent of older generations.
Generational theory says it is the historic role of “civic” generations, such as today’s Millennials and last century’s GI generation, to be the cohort in which the acculturation and toleration of newcomers to America reaches its apex.
A major theme of GI generation writers ranging from novelist Herman Wouk, (Marjorie Morningstar), to playwright Neil Simon (Biloxi Blues , Brighton Beach Memoirs) and sociologist Will Herberg (Protestant, Catholic, Jew) was the depiction of the way in which GIs of various ethnicities emerged from their immigrant homes and neighborhoods to achieve acceptance within the larger society.
In 1965, it was a GI generation-dominated Congress and GI president, Lyndon Johnson, that passed immigration-reform legislation overturning the nationality quotas established in 1924. Now, as a new ethnically diverse civic generation emerges in large numbers, American politics will renew its cyclical rhythm and return to policies that once again tolerate and include immigrants from every part of the globe.
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.
Eighty percent of Americans buy their first house between the ages of 18-34. While the Millennial Generation’s (born 1982-2003) delayed entry into all aspects of young adulthood has sometimes been characterized as a “failure to launch,” the generation’s preference for single tract, suburban housing should become the fuel to ignite the nation’s next housing boom as Millennials fully occupy this crucial age bracket over the next few years.
According to a study by Frank N. Magid Associates, 43 percent of Millennials describe suburbs as their “ideal place to live,” compared to just 31 percent of older generations. Even though big cities are often thought of as the place where young people prefer to live and work, only 17 percent of Millennials say they want to settle in one. This was the same percentage of members of this generation that expressed a preference for living in either rural or small town America. Nor are Millennials particularly anxious to spend their lives as renters. A full 64 percent of Millennials surveyed, said it was “very important” to have an opportunity to own their own home.
That hasn’t stopped a number of commentators from arguing that Millennials ought to prefer renting a loft apartment to buying a house and that they would be better off doing so. For example, sociologist Katherine Newman, is “hoping that the Millennial Generation doesn't set its sights on homeownership as a benchmark of economic stability, because it's going to be out of reach for so many of them that it will just be a recipe for frustration."
But survey research suggests it may be her hopes that will be dashed as the Millennial Generation matures. Eighty-four percent of 18-34 year olds who are currently renting say that they intend to buy a home even if they can’t currently afford to do so. As Neal Coleman, a married Millennial in his mid-twenties, put it, "You're freer when you own your own home, your own land. You're not beholden to a renter's contract, or lease. My feeling is that homeownership is an investment in being able to control your surroundings, to build a life for you and your family."
Glenn E. Crenlin from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington believes that “what we're looking at in terms of the Millennial Generation is likely only a delay in homeownership of three to five years, not a long-term trend away from homeownership itself." He cites census data from the American Community Survey that shows a significant increase in homeownership among Millennials as compared to Baby Boomers when they were at the same age that Millennials are now. “While 900,000 households in the Millennial Generation [now] own their own home, only 500,000 Baby Boomer households owned their own homes at the same point in their lives.”
This data suggests the key to a resounding revival of America’s housing market may be the availability of affordable homes in neighborhoods with amenities that would appeal to Millennials and their young families. As always, safe streets and good schools are key components of such an environment. But so too are short commutes to work and nearby shops featuring the local products that appeal to younger customers.
Such neighborhoods already exist in many close-in suburbs whose housing stock is in need of some renovation, or “gentrification,” from energetic owners committed to improving their local community. These attributes describe Millennials precisely. Their willingness to invest sweat equity in rehabilitating their first home should be rewarded in the financing process either by counting its value toward a down payment or using it to wipe out some of the outstanding student debt with which many of the members of this generation are burdened. Alternatively, homes could be offered to Millennials as rentals with an option to buy and with the cost of any renovations performed by the renter deducted from the down payment required to make the conversion from rental to ownership.
Recently, National Association of Realtors President Moe Veissi announced that "Realtors are committed to ensuring that the dream of homeownership can become a reality for generations of Americans to come." To start making that dream come true for Millennials, realtors and those who finance home purchases need to create innovative new offerings tailored to the needs and wants of Millennials. Policies and programs that will enable America’s most populous generation to own a piece of the American Dream offer the best hope for igniting the home construction boom critical to boosting country’s still sagging economy.
at National Journal
In 1964, Jack Weinberger, a leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement that kicked off a decade of student protests, famously proclaimed that his age cohort should “never trust anyone over 30.” A recent survey by communications research and consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates suggests that a gap just as deep exists today between younger and older generations. While the gap may not be as visible as in the 1960s, it still has the potential to be every bit as divisive.
Magid asked a national sample of 3,150 Americans, ages 16 to 66, if they were “least likely to get along with someone of the opposite sex, a different racial background, or a different generation (much older or younger).”
Overall, 53 percent say that they are least likely to get along with someone of a different generation. By contrast, only about a third believed that they would have the most difficulty interacting with someone of a different race, and one in five mentioned a person of the opposite sex as least likely to get along with.
Given their high degree of racial tolerance and wholesale rejection of traditional gender roles, it isn’t surprising that the youngest generation in Magid’s sample, Millennials (those in their teens or twenties), were more likely than older persons to cite generational disagreements and less likely to expect disagreements across racial or gender lines. This was especially true of the teenagers in the survey.
While Magid’s question focused on interpersonal relationships, there is already evidence that the generational divisions it uncovered will be of increasingly broad societal importance in the years ahead.
In the 2008 presidential election, for example, Millennials supported Barack Obama over John McCain by greater than 2-to-1 (66 percent to 32 percent), while the next two older cohorts (Generation X and boomers) divided their votes about evenly between the two candidates; a majority of senior citizens supported McCain.
According to the latest polls, Millennials support Obama by about the same 2-to-1 margin as in 2008, while Gen-X’ers and boomers are evenly split. Seniors prefer the Republican candidate by an even greater margin than they did four years ago.
Indeed, Pew’s latest American Values Survey attributes much of the increasing polarization of U.S. politics to the “strong generational characteristics of the Millennial generation compared with” older generations. This makes it likely that the same large generational split will occur again this November.
But the political differences are only one example of a large-scale division in attitudes and behavior between Millennials and their elders. From the country’s houses of worship to its major-league ballparks and from its homes to its workplaces, Millennials have a very different outlook on society than older Americans.
So far this generational division has not had the acrimony of the generation gap from the 1960s. In large part that’s because Millennials, unlike the boomers of 50 years ago, are not rebellious by nature. If anything, Millennials are unfailingly polite. Their parents, whom they actually like, have taught them to seek win-win solutions to controversial issues.
However, as demographer Joel Kotkin indicates, many current public policies work to the benefit of older generations at the expense of younger ones. Kotkin points out that U.S. politicians of both the right and left promote “governmental policies [that] continue to favor boomers and seniors over the young.”
In Great Britain, young people have formed an organization, the Intergenerational Foundation, to publicize and begin to redress their grievances. The IF website features postings such as “Intergenerational Practice vs. Intergenerational Justice” and “Sharing the cake—an Intergenerational Dilemma” that clearly express the organization’s concerns.
Perhaps American Millennials will not form groups that are so explicitly focused on their own cohort or take to the streets as boomers did five decades ago. But that does not mean that they will do nothing.
Unlike many European countries with small youth populations, Millennials have the numbers to produce more equitable public policies. At 95 million, Millennials are the largest American generation ever.
By 2020 they will comprise more than one in three eligible voters. Sooner or later, those numbers, and the unity of belief that the millennial generation has so far brought to politics, will allow the generation to reshape the United States, first as voters and then as the nation’s leaders.
The way in which boomers and seniors react to the growing presence of Millennials, and the younger generation’s distinctive beliefs, will determine how difficult the transition from the old to the new America will be.
One of the distinctive traits of Millennials (born roughly 1982-2003) is a constant feeling of being pressured. Thanks to their parents setting high expectations for them, Millennials consider life a series of hoops to be jumped through.
At each stage of their young lives, from kindergarten to college, the pressure to succeed has made them a risk averse, anxious generation, even as they remain optimistic about their ultimate success.
As a result, almost half of Millennials (45%) report feeling nervous due to stress at least monthly, and more than half (52%) say that their stress levels have increased over the last five years. But Millennials are also demonstrating a much healthier approach to dealing with this problem than older generations, reinforcing their reputation as the best-behaved American generation in decades.
Stress Response From Different Generations
The latest report from the American Psychological Association on Stress in America reveals very distinctive patterns in how different generations handle stress.
It explains that Boomers and senior citizens are much more likely than Millennials to “get in touch with their inner self” in order to deal with stress, either through prayer, or reading, or telling others their feelings rather than “keeping them bottled up” inside.
Meanwhile, members of Generation X, which is generally the most stressed generation of all, tend to engage in the most self-destructive behaviors when under stress. They are twice as likely as Millennials to say they deal with stress by smoking and twice as likely as Boomers to say they use alcohol.
Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely than any other generation to deal with stress using non-traditional means. Sixty percent say they listen to music to relieve stress, while less than half of older generations do so. Under stress, almost half (44%) of Millennials play video games or surf the Net. The only generation that comes close to Millennials in the use of these techniques is Generation X (36%). Millennials are also twice as likely as other generations to do yoga or meditate to try and relieve stress.
Some of the differences in how generations think about stress is a reflection of their age, rather than their generational type. As people get older, for instance, their assessment of their stress levels declines. Members of the Silent Generation, now over 65, report lower stress levels than any other generation.
Boomers’ assessment of their stress levels has declined steadily over the last five years, from an average score of 6.5 on a 10-point scale in 2007 to only 4.9 last year.
At the same time, Millennials’ perception of how stressed they are as compared to what they believe would be a healthy level of stress is almost as high as their stressed-out Generation X older siblings.
There are also clear age differences in how well people deal with stress. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that adults under 30, the current age bracket of Millennials, are twice as likely to consider suicide as those over 30. While only 1 percent of Millennials actually kill themselves, their rate of suicide is still five times greater than older generations.
Similarly, the problem of binge drinking is much more prevalent among those between the ages of 18 and 25 than it is among older members of the population, predominantly because the perception that such behavior carries great risk goes up dramatically for those 26 and older.
Still, these types of destructive behavior occur less frequently among Millennials than they did within older generations when those older generations were the age that Millennials are today.
The Bottom Line
In some ways, stress is like the weather—everyone talks about it but few do anything about it.
Only 32 percent of Millennials think they are very good or excellent at managing stress, numbers roughly comparable to other generations. The provision of Obamacare to keep those under 26 on their parents’ health insurance should make it easier for Millennials to gain treatment for the most serious effects of feeling pressured.
But having been taught since they were toddlers always to do their best in order to succeed, Millennials will have to develop lifelong healthy habits to deal with the stress they feel. When they do, they will look back with satisfaction on having thrived in the hyperactive world they helped create.