Millennials tend to be derisively referred to as the “me generation” and are often characterized as lazy, insatiable, entitled, and perhaps most satirically, avocado-obsessed. Though the avocado part may ring true in some cases, we know that these stereotypes do not accurately depict this generation. Our review of Millennial demographics demonstrates that young Americans bring diversity, technological skill, and fresh social and cultural shifts to the U.S. It’s time to overcome the avocado-lover rep and look at the empowering attributes related to education, employment, and potential political agency that truly define the Millennial generation.
First and foremost, let’s establish who composes this generation. Though the exact dates are debated, it is generally agreed that Millennials include those born in the early 80’s until the late 90’s, and are currently ages 19 to 37. These dates are relatively arbitrary, so I’ll frame it differently: if you grew up during the Internet revolution, you’re considered a Millennial; however, if the smartphone age more accurately defined your childhood, then you’re part of Generation Z, according to Pew Research Center.
With that ambiguous definition (somewhat) clarified, we can now take a look at what really defines Millennials today.
Millennials have a lot of it!
College enrollment rates have been on the rise for decades. This trend has particularly impacted the Millennial generation- almost 40% of Millennials ages 25-39 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Strikingly, this number is 10% more than that of Gen Z. Furthermore, a four-year college degree is the most popular education level among Millennials. This is the first time in U.S. history that such a high education level has become the norm.
Also significant to note is the rapid increase in education levels among women specifically. Millennial women are roughly four times as likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than women from the Silent Generation.
A more equal labor force while debunking Millennial myths!
2018 statistics indicate shifts towards gender equality within the labor force, largely ignited by Millennials entering the job market. Within the Silent Generation, a mere 40% of females were employed. This number has nearly doubled among Millennial females. At the same time, men have become slightly less active in the workforce, as 12% of Millennial men are unemployed compared to 4% of Silent Generation men. These changes create a more equal gender distribution across the American workforce.
On a different note, Millennials have a damaging reputation as “job hoppers.” However, recent stats discredit this claim. In fact, Millennial workers are just as likely to stick with their employers as Gen X workers. In 2018, 79% of Millennials reported that they were with their current employer for at least 13 months, while 77% of Gen X workers said the same.
Income and Wealth:
Saving is tricky with seemingly infinite student debt!
Though young adults generally do not have as much accumulated wealth as their older counterparts (for obvious reasons), Millennials overall have accumulated less wealth than previous generations had at their age. Surely the stereotypical explanation of “gap years spent traveling the world” cannot fully account for this discrepancy!
Alas, this difference is largely attributed to the levels of debt that each generation has faced. The median amount of debt has nearly doubled for Millennials when compared to Gen X debt-holders. At the same time, the share of young adult households with student debt doubled from 1998 to 2016, directly impacting the Millennial generation (which is why Free the Facts is devoting an entire policy project to this issue!).
We have a voice! (But we don’t fully use it).
Millennials are gaining potential voting power faster than any other generation. According to 2016 stats, Millennials made up the second largest group of eligible voters at 62 million, following the Baby Boomers’ 70 million. As the gap between these numbers continues to shrink, Millennials can expect to become the most dominant voice in the U.S. voting population. The catch? This political agency is not being utilized by everyone. Only 51% of eligible Millennial voters cast a vote in the 2016 election, compared to 70% of the Silent Generation, 69% of Baby Boomers, and 63% of Gen X-ers. As Millennials continue to age however, voter turnout is expected to increase as well.
Millennials are not passive, impatient, or selfish, but rather are technologically skilled, determined, and diverse. As Millennials age, members of this generation will continue to gain agency. We hope that these facts empower you to take advantage of that agency, and to continue to effect meaningful change in the world.