Generation y

"Generation Y" redirects here. For other uses, see Generation Y (disambiguation).

The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is the demographic cohort following Generation X. Commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.[1]


Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote about the Millennials in Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069,[2] and they released an entire book devoted to them, titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.[3] Strauss and Howe are "widely credited with naming the Millennials" according to journalist Bruce Horovitz.[1] In 1987 they coined the term "around the time 1982-born children were entering preschool and the media were first identifying their prospective link to the millennial year 2000".[4] Strauss and Howe use 1982 as the Millennials' starting birth year and 2004 as the last birth year.[5]

The phrase Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 Ad Age editorial to describe teenagers of the day, which they defined as different from Generation X, and then aged 11 or younger as well as the teenagers of the upcoming ten years.[6] Since then, the company has sometimes used 1982 as the starting birth year for this generation.[7]

The Pew Research Center, an American think tank organization, lists the millennial birth range from 1981-2000.[8]

A global generational study conducted by the University of Southern California, the London Business School, and PwC (a network of member accounting firms) defines millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995.[9]

The 2013 Millennial Impact Research Report by the Achieve Guidance Agency cites the generation's birth range from 1979-1994.[10]

A report based on research conducted as part of a joint partnership with the Service Management Group, Barkley Agency, and the Boston Consulting Group lists the age range from 1977-2000.[11]

Several alternative names have been proposed by various people: Generation We, Global Generation, Generation Next,[12] and the Net Generation.[13]

Millennials are sometimes also called Echo Boomers,[14] referring to the generation's size relative to the Baby Boomer generation,[15] and due to the significant increase in birth rates during the 1980s and into the 1990s. In the United States, birth rates peaked in 1990[16][17][18][19] and a 20th-century trend toward smaller families in developed countries continued.[20][21]

In Australia, there is debate over Millennial birth dates. It is generally accepted, however, that the first Millennials were born in 1983. The Australian Bureau of Statistics uses 1983–2000.[22][23][24][25]

In Canada, 1983 is generally thought to be the starting birth year for Generation Y, ending in 1999 or 2000, even as late as 2004.[26][27]

Newsweek used the term Generation 9/11 to refer to young people who were between the ages of 10 and 20 on September 11, 2001.[28] The first reference to "Generation 9/11" was made in the cover story of the November 12, 2001 issue of Newsweek Magazine. This could be considered a sub-group in Generation Y.

Eric Greenberg, author of Generation We: How Millennial Youth Are Taking Over America and Changing Our World Forever cites the age range from 1978-2000.[29]

Traits and values

Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe believe that each generation has common characteristics that give it a specific character, with four basic generational archetypes, repeating in a cycle. According to their theory, they predicted Millennials will become more like the "civic-minded" G.I. generation with a strong sense of community both local and global.[30] Strauss and Howe's research has been influential, but also has critics.[31]

Jean Twenge, the author of the 2006 book Generation Me, considers Millennials along with younger Gen Xers to be part of what she calls "Generation Me".[32] Twenge attributes confidence and tolerance to the Millennials but also a sense of entitlement and narcissism based on personality surveys that showed increasing narcissism among Millennials compared to preceding generations when they were teens and in their twenties. She questions the predictions of Strauss and Howe that this generation will come out civic-minded.[33]

William A. Draves and Julie Coates, authors of Nine Shift: Work, Life and Education in the 21st Century, write that Millennials have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes from previous generations as a response to the technological and economic implications of the Internet.

Surveys by the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study of high school seniors (conducted continuously since 1975) and the American Freshman survey, conducted by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute of entering college students since 1966 showed the proportion of students who said being wealthy was very important to them increased from 45% for Baby Boomers (surveyed between 1967 and 1985) to 70% for Gen X and 75% for Millennials. The percentage who said it was important to keep up to date with political affairs fell, from 50% for Boomers to 39% for Gen X and 35% for Millennials.

"Developing a meaningful philosophy of life" decreased the most, across generations, from 73% for Boomers to 45% for Millennials. "Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment" dropped from 33% for Boomers to 21% for Millennials.[34]

Fred Bonner, a Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair in Education at Rutgers University and author of Diverse Millennial Students in College: Implications for Faculty and Student Affairs, believes that much of the commentary on the Millennial Generation may be partially accurate, but overly general and that many of the traits they describe apply primarily to "white, affluent teenagers who accomplish great things as they grow up in the suburbs, who confront anxiety when applying to super-selective colleges, and who multitask with ease as their helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them." During class discussions, he has listened to black and Hispanic students describe how some or all of the so-called core traits did not apply to them. They often say the "special" trait, in particular, is unrecognizable. Other socio-economic groups often do not display the same attributes commonly attributed to Generation Y. "It's not that many diverse parents don't want to treat their kids as special," he says, "but they often don't have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources, to do that."[35]

In 2008, author Ron Alsop called Millennials "Trophy Kids,"[36] a term that reflects the trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where mere participation is frequently enough for a reward. It has been reported that this is an issue in corporate environments.[36] Some employers are concerned that Millennials have too great expectations from the workplace.[37] Studies predict that Generation Y will switch jobs frequently, holding many more jobs than Generation X due to their great expectations.[38]

Educational sociologist Andy Furlong describes Generation Y in Youth Studies: An Introduction as optimistic, engaged, and team players.[39]

In his book, Fast Future, author David Burstein describes Millennials approach to social change as "pragmatic idealism," a deep desire to make the world a better place combined with an understanding that doing so requires building new institutions while working inside and outside existing institutions.[40]

Millennial characteristics vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. There's a marked increase in use and familiarity with communication, media, and digital technologies. In most parts of the world its upbringing was marked by an increase in a neoliberal approach to politics and economics; the effects of this environment are disputed.[41][42]

Political views compared to other generations

In the United Kingdom Millennials are both more socially liberal and also more classical liberal, ie economically right wing. Born during or shortly after the Thatcher era, they are less supportive of the economic safety net, the National Health Service, welfare and financial support for the elderly than older generations, but more likely to support same sex marriage and legalization of drugs. [43]

This runs in contrast to Millennials in the United States, who are becoming more in favor of socialism and have less support for abortion than their elders, despite being more pro gay marriage than older generations like British millennials. [44]


Experts differ on the precise range of Millennial birthdates. Some sources estimate starting dates beginning in the latter part of the 1970s.[45][46] Some sources estimate even later dates,[47] describing millennials as people who were born between 1982 and the early 2000s. [17][18]William Strauss and Neil Howe projected in their 1991 book "Generations" that the U.S. Millennial population would be 76 million people. Later, Neil Howe revised the number to over 95 million people (in the U.S.). As of 2012, it is estimated that there are approximately 80 million millennials residing in the United States.[48]

In his The Lucky Few: Between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom, author Elwood Carlson called millennials the "New Boomers" (born 1983 to 2001), because of the upswing in births after 1983, finishing with the "political and social challenges" that occurred after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, and the "persistent economic difficulties" of the time.[47] Generally speaking, Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. Older Millennials may have parents that are members of the Silent Generation.


Economic prospects for the Millennials have worsened due to the late-2000s recession.[49][50] Several governments have instituted major youth employment schemes out of fear of social unrest due to the dramatically increased rates of youth unemployment.[51] In Europe, youth unemployment levels were very high (27% in Spain, 35% in the Baltic states, 19.1% in Britain[52] and more than 20% in many more). In 2009 leading commentators began to worry about the long term social and economic effects of the unemployment.[53] Unemployment levels in other areas of the world were also high, with the youth unemployment rate in the U.S. reaching a record level (19.1%, July 2010) since the statistic started being gathered in 1948.[54] Underemployment is also a major factor.

In the U.S. the economic difficulties have led to dramatic increases in youth poverty, unemployment, and the numbers of young people living with their parents.[55] In April 2012 it was reported that 1 in 2 new college graduates in the US were still either unemployed or underemployed.[56] It has been argued that this unemployment rate and poor economic situation has given Generation Y a rallying call with the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement.[57] In Canada, unemployment amongst youths aged 15 to 24 years of age in July 2009 was 15.9%, the highest it had been in 11 years.[58] However, according to Christine Kelly, Occupy is not a youth movement and has participants that vary from the very young to very old.[59]

Generation Y who grew up in Asian countries show different preferences and expectations of work to those who grew up in the US or Europe. This is usually attributed to the differing cultural and economic conditions experienced while growing up. They spend over $170 billion a year.[60]

A variety of names have emerged in different European countries particularly hard hit following the financial crisis of 2007-2008 to designate young people with limited employment and career prospects.[61] These groups can be considered to be more or less synonymous with Generation Y, or at least major sub-groups in those countries. The Generation of €700 is a term popularized by the Greek mass media and refers to educated Greek twixters of urban centers who generally fail to establish a career. In Greece, young adults are being "excluded from the labor market" and some "leave their country of origin to look for better options". They're being "marginalized and face uncertain working conditions" in jobs that are unrelated to their educational background, and receive the minimum allowable base salary of €700. This generation evolved in circumstances leading to the Greek debt crisis and some participated in the 2010–2011 Greek protests.[62] In Spain, they're referred to as the mileurista (for 1000€),[63] in France "The Precarious Generation," and in Italy also the generation of 1000 euros.[61]

Generation Flux is a neologism and psychographic (not demographic) designation coined by Fast Company for American employees who need to make several changes in career throughout their working lives due to the chaotic nature of the job market following the 2008–2012 global financial crisis. Societal change has been accelerated by the use of social media, smartphones, mobile computing, and other new technologies.[64] Those in "Generation Flux" have birth-years in the ranges of both Generation X and Generation Y. "Generation Sell" was used by author William Deresiewicz to describe Millennial's interest in small businesses.[65]

To address these new challenges, many large firms are currently studying the social and behaviorial patterns of Millennials and are trying to devise programs that decrease intergenerational estrangement, and increase relationships of reciprocal understanding between older employees and Millennials, while at the same time making Millennials more comfortable. The UK's

According to a Bloomberg L.P. article, members of Generation Y have benefited the least from the economic recovery following the Great Recession, as average incomes for this generation have fallen at twice the general adult population's total drop and are likely to be on a path toward lower incomes for at least another decade. "Three and a half years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, the earnings and employment gap between those in the under-35 population and their parents and grandparents threatens to unravel the American dream of each generation doing better than the last. The nation's younger workers have benefited least from an economic recovery that has been the most uneven in recent history." [67]

Peter Pan generation

Millennials are sometimes referred to as the boomerang generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members' perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood, for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.[68]

According to Kimberly Palmer, "High housing prices, the rising cost of higher education, and the relative affluence of the older generation are among the factors driving the trend."[69] However, other explanations are seen as contributing. Questions regarding a clear definition of what it means to be an adult also impacts a debate about delayed transitions into adulthood and the emergence of a new life stage, Emerging Adulthood. For instance, one study by professors at Brigham Young University found that college students are more likely now to define "adult" based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional "rite of passage" events.[70]

Dr. Larry Nelson, one of the three Marriage, Family, and Human Development professors to perform the study, also noted that some Millennials are delaying the transition from childhood to adulthood as a response to mistakes made by their parents. "In prior generations, you get married and you start a career and you do that immediately. What young people today are seeing is that approach has led to divorces, to people unhappy with their careers ... The majority want to get married [...] they just want to do it right the first time, the same thing with their careers."[70]

The economy has also had a dampening effect on millennials' ability to date and, ultimately, get married. In 2012 the average American couple spent an average of over $27,000 on their wedding.[71] A 2013 joint study by sociologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that the decline and disappearance of stable, unionized full-time jobs with health insurance and pensions for people who lack a college degree has had profound effects on working-class Americans, who now are less likely to marry and have children within marriage than those with college degrees.[72]


In the United States, members of Generation Y are less likely to practice organized religion than older generations, and are more likely to be skeptical of religious institutions. However, the majority of Generation Y members are religious and irreligious Generation Y members are a minority.[73] Generation Y has led a trend towards irreligion that has been growing since the 1990s. 29 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1982, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948.[74] A 2005 study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that more than half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. One-third said that they discussed religion with friends, attended religious services, and read religious material weekly. 23% of those studied did not identify themselves as religious practitioners.[75]

In the United Kingdom a poll found that more than half of Generation Y have 'no religion nor attended a place of worship', unless it is for a wedding or a funeral. It also found that a fifth do not believe in any god and that 38% thought religion causes a lot of evil in the world.[76]

Digital technology

In their 2007 book, authors Junco and Mastrodicasa expanded from China to the United States on the work of Howe and Strauss to include research-based information about the personality profiles of Millennials, especially as it relates to higher education. They conducted a large-sample (7,705) research study of college students. They found that Next Generation college students, born between 1983–1992, were frequently in touch with their parents and they used technology at higher rates than people from other generations. In their survey, they found that 97% of these students owned a computer, 94% owned a cell phone, and 56% owned an MP3 player. They also found that students spoke with their parents an average of 1.5 times a day about a wide range of topics. Other findings in the Junco and Mastrodicasa survey revealed 76% of students used instant messaging, 92% of those reported multitasking while instant messaging, 40% of them used television to get most of their news, and 34% of students surveyed used the Internet as their primary news source.[77][78]

Gen Xers and Millennials were the first to grow up with computers in their homes. In a 1999 speech at the New York Institute of Technology, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates encouraged America's teachers to use technology to serve the needs of the first generation of kids to grow up with the Internet.[79] Many Millennials enjoyed a 250+-channel home cable TV universe. In June 2009, Nielsen released the report, How Teens Use Media which discussed the latest data on media usage by generation. In this report, Nielsen set out to redefine the dialogue around media usage by the youngest of Generation Y, extending through working age Generation Y and compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers.[80] One of the more popular forms of media use in Generation Y is social networking. In 2010, research was published in the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research which claimed that students who used social media and decided to quit showed the same withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict who quit their stimulant.[81] Mark Prensky coined the term "digital native" to describe Generation Y "K through college" students in 2001, explaining they "represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology." [82]

Cultural identity

Some have argued that the Millennials have transcended the ideological battles spawned by the counterculture of the 1960s, which persist today in the form of culture wars.[83] This is further documented in Strauss & Howe's book titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, which describes the Millennial generation as "civic-minded," rejecting the attitudes of the Baby Boomers and Generation X.[84]

Since the 2000 U.S. Census, which allowed people to select more than one racial group, "Millennials" in abundance have asserted their right to have all their heritages respected, counted, and acknowledged.[85]

A 2013 poll in the United Kingdom found that Generation Y was more "open-minded than their parents on controversial topics".[76][86]

Of those surveyed nearly 65% supported same-sex marriage. While there was a "near-equal split" (41% for, 46% against) on the legalization of "soft drugs" such as cannabis, two thirds have never taken illegal drugs.[76]

Generation Y came of age in a time where the entertainment industry was affected by the Internet.[87][88][89] The new genres attributable to Generation Y thus far are dubstep.[90][91] They allegedly show a preference for current movies.[92]

See also



Further reading

  • Furlong, Andy.Youth Studies: An Introduction. New York, NY: Routlege, 2013.
  • Burstein, David (2013). Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

External links