For centuries, explorers searched for the legendary golden city of El Dorado, seeking instant wealth in the jungles of South America. But today’s treasure trove may be found much closer to home; cities like El Dorado, Arkansas, for example, that have successfully linked their economic development strategy to improving the educational attainment of their residents.
El Dorado, a city of about 20,000 people that was at the heart of Arkansas’s oil boom in the 1920s has been hard pressed to reprise that economic growth experience in this century. Instead of chasing after the fool’s gold of becoming cool, it has found a way to attract new residents and increase its economic vitality by promising its public school students a free college education if they graduate from high school with good grades. That promise has the potential to provide the critical glue in holding together a broad based economic recovery not just for cities such as El Dorado but for entire states or even the country.
The El Dorado Promise is a scholarship program established and funded by Murphy Oil Corporation, the town’s largest employer. Modeled after a similar program in Kalamazoo, MI, It provides graduates of the city’s high school a scholarship covering tuition and mandatory fees that can be used at any accredited two- or four-year, public or private, educational institution in the US up to an amount equal to the highest annual resident tuition at an Arkansas public university.
Since its inception in 2007, 1239 students have taken advantage of the offer. Over 90% of them have completed at least one year of college. The first high school class to enjoy this benefit has graduated after five years from college at a rate almost 40% greater than the state’s higher education student population. These gains in acquiring the skills necessary to be competitive in today’s global economy have been achieved by virtually all of the city’s high school students, over 90% of whom graduated from high school last year.
Furthermore the culture of a college-bound student population is now permeating throughout the school district, with a recent study finding that students in grades three through eight in the city scored significantly higher than their matched peers in nearby school districts in both math and literacy. The greatest gains have come from those who were the youngest when the Promise was announced.
The goal of the El Dorado Promise was not just greater educational attainment, however. The visionaries who established the program also wanted to use this program to improve the community’s economic vitality and quality of life. They have clearly done that. Enrollment in the city’s schools was up 5% in just the first four years of the program’s existence. As the Promise website says, “the prospect of an increasingly educated workforce gives economic development leaders new tools to attract businesses to the region.”
The first such Promise was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2005 by still anonymous benefactors seeking to restore the reputation of a city made famous in 1942 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s hit tune about a “gal” who lived there. Rather than raise taxes to balance the city’s budget, those who established the Kalamazoo Promise offered a fully paid four-year scholarship to any public institution of higher education in Michigan to any student who went to the city’s high schools for all four years. Under the terms of the Kalamazoo Promise, students have no obligation to repay the money or even to reside in Kalamazoo after they graduate from college.
The results are very similar to those of El Dorado. Kalamazoo’s student population is up 17.6% and dropout rates have been cut in half. Ninety percent of the city’s female African-American high school graduates have gone on to college. On the economic front, the proportion of residential construction in the city rose sharply from around 30% to nearly 50% of all permits issued in the greater Kalamazoo area. The community’s careful tracking of the results has identified 1600 families who say they are living in the city because of the Promise.
The economic challenges that caused El Dorado and Kalamazoo to up their game in getting local residents to graduate from high school and go on to college are no different than the challenge facing the country as a whole in trying to create a competitive workforce in today’s increasingly global and technology driven economy. For example, the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that 62% of the jobs in the United States by the year 2018 will require at least some college education – for example a certificate for a specific skill – and that more than half of those jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Unless the nation wants to fill those jobs with immigrants from other countries, it will have to do a much better job of giving each American who graduates from high school a chance to pursue a two year skill certificate or a baccalaureate degree.
A promise that rewards good academic performance in high school with a scholarship that pays for four years of college tuition has demonstrated it can make a major difference in achieving our educational and economic goals. Now it’s time for the rest of the country to find the gold that Kalamazoo and El Dorado have already discovered. Just as the country, as part of its overall economic development strategy, once expanded access to a universal free education first for primary schools and later for high schools, it must now find ways to make these two pioneering cities’ promise to their young people America’s Promise to all of its youth.
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Millennials: Economics of Higher Education
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Millennials’ student debt is depressing US economy. College
will become part of universal, free educational system
in America when Millennials run things.
Slugging Milwaukee Brewer outfielder Ryan Braun’s accomplishments earned him the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011. But his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs — one that will force him to sit out the rest of the 2013 season — forever called into question all of his achievements. Of course, Braun wasn’t the first player to be caught using steroids, and he won’t be the last. Their number includes Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run leader, and Roger Clemens, a pitcher with 354 wins in his career. Within the next couple of weeks more players, most notably Alex Rodriguez, are likely to be punished for the same offense, some probably more severely than Braun.
One thing is different this time, however. Unlike previous attempts by players' union representatives to create a civil-rights issue over steroid testing, most present-day players have vigorously condemned Braun’s PED usage. The adverse reaction to Braun by other players was noticed and applauded by Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the organization that banned Lance Armstrong for life from competitive cycling for his use of steroids. According to Tygart, “It’s a new generation of athletes that are standing up. The culture’s been flipped on its head.”
That new generation is the Millennial generation. Millennials are a type of cohort that generational analysts call “civic.” Although some erroneously label Millennials as narcissistic and selfish, their record-breaking participation in community service efforts and the current deep decline in youth crime are just two of many behavioral facts that demonstrate that they are a well-behaved and team-oriented generation. Like other civic generations before them, Millennials are already bringing those positive traits to a Major League Baseball stadium near you. Before they are through flipping baseball’s culture, the national pastime is likely to experience its second golden age, similar to the one the previous civic generation, the GI Generation, brought to the game 80 years ago.
Most of baseball’s PED users have been members of the individualistic, iconoclastic Generation X. Even those X’ers who did not use steroids, rarely criticized those players who did. Compare that generational reaction to that of Millennial Max Scherzer, the Detroit Tigers' players' union representative.
“The whole thing has been despicable on his part. For me, as a player, you want to believe that the system works, but obviously he found a way around it. And when he did get caught, he never came clean … That’s why there’s so much player outrage toward him.” In fact, Scherzer doesn’t think Braun’s punishment was tough enough — he wants even more severe penalties for PED usage. He said, "We want to see either longer suspensions or whatever it takes to take away the incentive — the financial gain — taken away from players. Whether that’s voiding contracts, longer suspensions, you’re seeing every player jump on board that the penalty doesn’t fit the crime yet.”
But the Millennial generation’s contribution to baseball in the years ahead is going to be more positive than just condemning those who don’t compete fairly. Unlike most of the Gen X’ers before them, who focused on their individual achievements and large paychecks from whatever team was willing to pay them the most money, many Millennial players seem committed to the team that that originally signed them, trained them in the minors, and brought them to the big leagues.
In the same week that Ryan Braun was suspended, Red Sox second baseman and Millennial Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million contract two seasons before he would have become a free agent. Pedroia will clearly not suffer financially, but he likely could have received more money had he elected to go on the open market. However, there was more to his decision than the size of his paycheck. “This [Boston] is my home. I love being here. I love my teammates, love this city … A lot of teams passed on me because of my size [he’s 5’9” and weighs about 160 pounds] … That’s why I want to make sure I work as hard as I can to make sure they made the right choice in drafting me … I just want to make sure I’m playing my last game here.”
Pedroia is not the only Millennial generation ballplayer to make every effort to remain with his original team for the duration of his career. Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw has made plain his desire to remain in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers have reciprocated that interest. However, perhaps the most surprising case of a Millennial sticking with his first team is Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez, who signed a seven-year contract extension with the small-market Seattle Mariners, a perennially non-contending team, last February. Most baseball observers believe that Hernandez could have made far more money and fame elsewhere.
In the first two decades of the 20th century baseball faced a crisis every bit as damaging to the game as steroid usage is now. That threat culminated when eight members of a generation of ballplayers described by baseball historian Bill James as “shysters, con men, drunks, and outright thieves” conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series. Like today, it took a new generation of players to rescue the game. Those GI generation players not only saved baseball, but also produced a golden era of high achievement on the field and record attendance in the stands. Baseball history is about to repeat itself in the Millennial era.
The most decisive force in national politics today is the millennial generation (born 1982-2003). Millennials re-elected Barack Obama and will represent more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade. Yet, more than six months after the 2012 elections, Congress has moved fitfully, if at all, to address this generation’s political agenda.
The most promising effort in the current session of Congress to address millennials’ concerns was the bipartisan effort in the Senate that secured passage of a comprehensive, if somewhat overblown, immigration reform bill. Forty percent (40%) of millennials are non-white and Mitt Romney’s ostrich-like approach to this issue helped motivate Hispanic and Asian-American millennials to vote overwhelmingly for the president. Still, in spite of this lesson, two-thirds of the Senate Republican caucus voted against the immigration reform bill. The Republican House is even more hostile to the idea, even with their professed bête noire of border security addressed with massive new funding for enforcement in the just passed Senate bill. GOP opposition to the bill is so entrenched that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to not even bring it to a vote.
Millennials are a tolerant bunch and this continuing display of intolerance by congressional Republicans bodes particularly ill for the GOP’s chances of attracting the generation’s votes in the future. Tea Party-inspired efforts to pass a mean spirited, rather than a means tested, approach to food stamps, helped to doom the bi-partisan Senate version of the farm bill in the House as well. That same body did find the time and the votes to pass, for the 37th time, an irrelevant repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though the passage of Obamacare was another key reason why millennials supported its namesake last November.
But probably the vote that was most out of touch with millennial attitudes and beliefs was the vote this month in the House to further limit abortion rights in this country. Perhaps the Republicans who forced that vote upon their colleagues missed Sandra Fluke’s spirited defense of women’s reproductive rights at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that resonated so positively with the Millennial women, two-thirds of whom voted for Barack Obama last year.
The failure of the current crop of older members of Congress to address the concerns of the millennial generation is not limited, however, to Republicans. The Democratic leadership in the Senate didn’t feel sufficient urgency, for instance, to prevent the interest rate on student loans to double before Congress adjourned for the July 4 holiday. Can anyone imagine them taking the same lackadaisical attitude if Social Security benefits were about to be cut? Even had the student loan issue been addressed in a timely manner, it still would not have dealt with the incredible burden of student debt, now over a trillion dollars, that is preventing many millennials from doing the things that young adults traditionally do, like starting a family or buying a house, that would contribute mightily to the nation’s economic recovery. The problem, however, goes ignored by members of both parties in both houses, most of whom were never asked, as millennials have been, to self-finance the education they and the country need to promote economic growth.
Congress is so out of touch with the beliefs and concerns of millennials that even the nine old men and women on the Supreme Court did a better job of addressing the generation’s agenda in their last session when the Justices declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
There have been other times in America’s history when Congress has stubbornly refused to deal with the needs of the nation’s newest generations. In 1868, one-third of a generation very much like today’s Boomers, the Transcendentalists, were booted from their congressional seats in favor of candidates from a younger, more modern generation. It was the largest generational landslide in the nation’s history — until now. If the current Congress continues to ignore Millennials, it risks suffering the very same fate — an outcome for which it will have only itself to blame.
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
at Huffington Post
Millennials (born 1982-2003) are America's most civic-oriented generation, since their GI Generation great grandparents. They believe in collective, local, direct action to solve their community's and the nation's problems. However, a recent report on the state of Millennials' civic participation indicates that the generation's interest in taking part in political activities is constrained by the underlying skepticism of many Millennials about the transparency and fairness of the country's current political system. To address this problem, the Roosevelt Institute's Campus Network (RICN) has just issued a set of recommendations on how to create "Government By and For Millennial America," that should serve as a roadmap for anyone interested in increasing the civic health of America's largest and most diverse generation.
In its most recent report on the civic health of adult Millennials, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), in partnership with CIRCLE, Mobilize.org and Harvard's Institute of Politics(IOP), pointed out that Millennials' volunteering and community service rates are much higher than that of their parents when they were in their twenties. Not surprisingly, they also lead the country in using social media to advance their participation in civic life. But when it came to voting, only half of Millennials eligible to vote did so in 2012 -- a rate not much different than for 18-29 year olds in the '70s and '80s. Even though Millennials slightly increased their share of the overall electorate last year as compared with 2008 and provided President Obama with the margin he needed to win re-election, many members of the generation remain unconvinced that government understands and cares about them.
In an IOP survey of 18-29 year olds taken before the 2012 election, 43 percent of those whose responses suggested they were unlikely to vote said it didn't matter who was elected because "Washington was broken." Of those IOP considered unlikely to vote, 31 percent thought none of the candidates represented their views and a quarter of them said both major parties were pretty much the same. While Millennials strongly believe in an activist government, less than a third believe their voice is represented in today's democratic processes.
The RICN's report advocates a series of policy initiatives designed to change those impressions.
To make voting easier and hassle free, the report advocates online registration be adopted in all the states, not just the fourteen using such a system today. California, which adopted this approach in time for the 2012 election, registered over a million voters, 61 percent of who were under 35, online in about two months. In order to accommodate this potentially large increase in the electorate, the report also advocates increasing the time and hours of early voting, making Election Day a federal holiday, and ultimately allowing people to vote online. The report also suggests an independent commission create a "Democracy Index" to measure the efficiency and openness of each state's election mechanisms, using objective measurements of participation rates and process efficiencies.
But the report's recommendations are not limited to just the process of voting. It contains a wealth of ideas on how government could be a better "steward of the common good," lawmaker and innovator.
Some of its most innovative ideas deal with expanding the space in which democracy operates in order to create more places for "collective self-determination and political education." This could be done at the neighborhood level as is currently taking place in Seattle and Los Angeles, at more open local school board meetings, or through participatory budgeting processes at the city and county level of government. The report also advocates that states should establish and routinely use online town halls to increase the opportunity of citizens to participate in policy deliberations. The Congressional Management Foundation found that such opportunities increase public approval of the elected officials who sponsor them specifically and participants' civic engagement generally.
The RICN's report clearly reflects the values and beliefs of the Millennials who drafted it. Their recommendations also provide a glimpse into the future of American democracy, since more than one out of three adult Americans will be members of this generation by the end of this decade. Rather than waiting for Millennials to stage a hostile takeover of our democratic processes, those in power today should proactively seek to accelerate the transition from a governmental and political process that is at historical low levels of public trust to a democracy that is in line with the vision and ideas of America's next great generation.
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.
While it is still fashionable for politicians in both China and the United States to prove their domestic leadership credentials by taking tough stances against their nation’s chief economic rival, the results of recent Pew surveys conducted in the two countries suggest that this type of rhetoric is a holdover from an earlier era. An examination of the beliefs among the youngest generational cohorts in each country shows a distinct lack of the ideological vitriol so common in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, we might see a far more congenial relationship between the world’s two great powers --- at least once the older generations fade away.
Let’s hope so, because older generations sometimes seem more committed to discord than accord. During the 2012 US presidential campaign both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney took full advantage of opportunities to criticize their opponent for the softness of his approach to China. Xi Jinping, who was named the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party about a week after Obama was reelected and will become China’s Premier early next year, has been no less willing to rhetorically censure the United States.
Yet the Pew research indicates that the youngest generational cohort in both the US and China holds positive attitudes toward and favors contact with the other country. In the United States that youthful cohort is the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003), America’s largest and most ethnically diverse and tolerant generation to date. Of the 95 million US Millennials, about four in ten are nonwhite and one in twenty is of Asian descent, with Chinese-Americans comprising the largest portion of that segment. By contrast, among U.S. seniors and Boomers, only about one in five is nonwhite and about two-percent of Asian heritage.
Generational theorists have not definitively named the Millennials’ Chinese counterparts. Some observers, however, have called at least their urban segment “Little Emperors.” Similar to American Millennials, this generation was often reared by their own hovering “helicopter parents” in a highly protected, hyper-attentive manner that reflected the importance of these special children—the product of China’s “one child” policy—and the great expectations their parents had and continue to have for their offspring. The result of this upbringing are cohorts of civic-minded, pressured, conventional, patriotic American and Chinese young people who revere their parents, are optimistic about their nation’s future, and open to the world.
In China, the Pew research, conducted in March and April, 2012, contained a battery of questions probing attitudes toward the United States, its interactions with China, and its influence on Chinese society. Across all of these questions, the youngest cohort (18-29 year olds) held significantly more favorable opinions about America than older Chinese. Given that Chinese who are 50 or older include generations that established the Communist regime in 1949, fought American troops in Korea, and were part of the ideological Red Guards of the 1960s, this is not altogether surprising.
Overall, a majority (51%) of China’s youthful cohort held a positive view of the U.S. as compared with only 38% of older Chinese. More specifically, majorities of 18-29 year olds said they admired American technological and scientific advances (77%), American ideas about democracy (59%), U.S. music, movies, and television (56%), and agree that it is good that American ideas and customs are spreading to China (50%). Across all of these dimensions favorable attitudes toward the United States and its influence were at least 15 percentage points higher among the youngest Chinese cohort than the oldest. In only one area, the American way of doing business, did less than a majority of 18-29 year old Chinese (48%) indicate admiration of the United States; even on this dimension there was a 12-point gap between the positive opinions of younger and older Chinese respondents.
Pew did not ask the same questions in its American surveys that it did in the Chinese study. However, it did examine many of the same dimensions permitting valid comparison of survey results in the two countries. In a November 2011 survey examining the large generation gap in U.S. politics Pew asked if it was better for the United States to build a stronger economic relationship with China or to get tough with China on economic issues. American Millennials, a generation corresponding to Chinese 18-29 year olds, overwhelmingly favored a policy focusing on building stronger trade relations with China rather than one based on toughness (69% to 24%). By contrast, a plurality of the two oldest American generations—Boomers and seniors—believed that a tougher approach instead of closer economic ties with China was best (48% to 45%). These results reflect the far greater support of Millennials than older generations for free trade agreements overall (63% to 42%).
In its April 2012 Values survey, Pew examined the openness of Americans to “foreign,” if not specifically Chinese, influences. In one question, respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: “It bothers me when I come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English.” Only 32% of American Millennials compared to 44% of all older generations agreed. In another item Pew asked for agreement or disagreement with this statement: “the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values.” Only four in ten Millennials (41%) as compared with a majority (53%) of Boomers and seniors agreed.
American Millennials are a generation that seeks to resolve disputes and conflicts by searching for win-win solutions rather than absolute victories over their opponents. Recent research suggests that their Chinese counterparts share many of the same attitudes. This bodes well for relations between their two countries in coming decades. The big question for the more immediate future is whether older generations in America and China will be able and willing to set aside the attitudes based on the ideologies and policies of the past long enough for Millennials on both sides of the Pacific to forge a new, less contentious relationship.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) tended to be workaholics—causing the average time their Gen X children spent with an adult role model during a typical day to fall to about 14.5 minutes.
Despite their parents’ attempt to make these fleeting moments “quality time,” adult Gen Xers (born 1965-1981) are determined not to let their own work life intrude on the time they spend with their family.
However, as Boomer Anne-Marie Slaughter so eloquently points out in her controversial and interesting Atlantic magazine article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, implementing the concept of work/life balance can be challenging—especially for women.
As a result, the children of Boomers and Xers, members of the Millennial generation (born 1982-2003), are searching for an alternative approach to incorporating the obligations to family and the demands of work.
The desire of Millennials of both sexes for a “blended life” will remake how work is organized and what is expected from each parent in the years to come.
Ryan Healy, (pictured right) the COO and co-founder of Brazen Careerist, clearly articulated his generation’s desire for something completely different than the work/life balance exhibited by his Gen X elders early in his career.
“I would never dream of saying I want a Family/Life balance. … This whole notion of needing to separate work and life implies that your career, which takes up about 75% of your day, is something you simply try to get through so you can go home and do what you really enjoy for the other 25%. What a terrible way to live. My purpose is to be successful, genuinely happy and to make a difference in this world. … The balance doesn’t work, we already know this. I don’t want to choose. I want a blended life.” Click here to read more.
Millennials like Healy have the most gender-neutral attitudes of any generation in American history.
Unleashed from traditional societal constraints, Millennial women have reached new heights of accomplishment in comparison to men.
For instance, by 2016, women are projected to earn about two-thirds of all undergraduate and master’s degrees and even 56 percent of the doctorates that will be awarded in the United States. Millennial gender-neutrality has also led to a perspective on feminism that isn’t defined in comparison to men.
Jen Kalaidis, (pictured at left) is a writer and marketer in DC who describes her Millennial sisters’ attitudes this way, “Today’s women were raised to believe we were equal to men, but we didn’t have to try to be them to prove it. We play sports, go to college, start businesses, have babies, and travel the world on our own terms. We aren’t constantly trying to out-man the boys, play for play.”
All of this female success has led some male Millennials to rethink what it means to be a man in today’s society.
Two of them, Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil, wrote about “Men’s Lib” in Newsweek and took issue with those “who argue that men are ‘designed’ for some gigs and not others … women long ago proved that gender essentialism doesn’t determine what kind of work they can do. … The time has come for a similar expansion of what men can do for a living.”
Romano and Dokoupil expect to see greater participation in housework and child-rearing from the men in their generation as well, with Millennial fathers creating a demand for, and taking advantage of, paternity-leave opportunities as they become more available.
As Millennials marry and start families and pursue their individual careers, employers who wish to attract the best talent of the generation will have no choice but to accommodate their desire for a more blended life.
Such things as telecommuting, flexible hours, child care, and round-the-clock access to technology will become essential elements of the benefits package employers will need to offer their workforce.
With Millennials on track to become more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade, their desire for a seamless blend between working and raising a family will generate a new national consensus on the importance of enabling the full participation of both sexes in all aspects of American life.
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.
Based on the continuing rise in the popularity of Facebook, which adds another 100 million users about every six months, and the overall increase in the percentage of those users who have unfriended someone, more than a half a billion people experienced the sting of rejection on the site in 2011, compared to approximately 158 million in 2009. Some of this increase may simply be a reflection of the larger universe now involved in managing their friendships. The odds of wanting to hold onto all of your friends, after all, are likely to decrease as the group gets larger and larger.
But another reason for this increase may be the shifting generational demographics of Facebook users. Today, more than half of Facebook users are over 35. In 2009, that group represented only one-third of all users. As older generations catch up with the proportion of Millennials (born 1982-2003) participating in Facebook, the site's users are less likely to share the Millennial penchant for openness, sharing, and group-oriented behavior.
Fifty and 60-year old Boomers (born 1946-1964), for instance, as well as even older members of the Silent Generation (born 1925-1945), are more concerned with preserving their privacy than younger generations are. Given Facebook's increased emphasis on sharing everything, older users are likely to exercise more control over their friends list and limit them to those people they feel particularly close to or trust more.
While need for privacy may also be of concern to Generation X, sandwiched between Millennials and Boomers, their generation brings an entirely different sensibility to social media. They see it as yet another technological tool to make life easier to manage. Their concern for efficiency and speed may well lead them to drop friends whose utilitarian value, at least on Facebook, is no longer apparent, especially as the universe of potential friends expands.
The commercial implications of this increase in unfriending activity present a problem for Facebook. Its pending IPO depends on increasing the amount of revenue per subscriber that the site generates. This now lags significantly behind that of other social media sites such as Google. Advertisers hope that with new features, such as Timeline, and a renewed focus on helping major brands target their advertising by Facebook, they will begin to see more bang for their online bucks.
However, it may become difficult to fulfill this hope as the universe of Facebook users begins to approach the earth's connected population. Even though studies have shown Facebook users to have more close relationships than other Internet users, the distinction between Facebook users and everyone else will continue to erode as the two populations merge into one. At that point, everyone will be engaged in the process of limiting their friends to those they really care about and billions of people will experience the sharp but momentary pain of being unfriended.