The Millennial Generation: Redefining the American Image

The Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project released new statistics on March 7, 2014 exploring the desires, attitudes, and issues faced by the Millennial generation, whose members include the 18 to 33 year old age bracket. The project studies American’s behavior and attitudes through surveys and data analysis. A total of 1,821 adults were surveyed via telephone across the United States from February 14-23, 2014, including 617 adults from the Millennial generation. As indicated by Pew’s results, the Millennial generation is making its distinct mark in today’s society. Through their increased use of technology, decreased marriage rate, increased out-of-wedlock births, etc., the Pew Research Center concludes that Millennials stray from traditional values and beliefs. However, more significantly, they have redefined the image of “American,” through “social, economic, and demographic” means (pewscoialtrends.org).

Several aspects contribute to this group’s uniqueness. For instance, its members are considered to be the country’s most diverse of all other generations. This is most accurately depicted through the increasing number of Hispanic and Asian immigrants within the last 50 years. Consequently, their American-born children have now reached adulthood, and are considered “a transitional generation.” Increased racial diversity is a major aspect that characterizes the Millennial generation. According to Pew Research Center, “43% of Millennials are non-white, the highest share of any generation.” The United States’ increased racial diversity leads the Census Bureau to project that the majority of the US population will be non-white by 2043. This increased racial diversity may provide evidence as to why 18-33 year olds exhibit fundamentally different ideals and beliefs than their predecessors, generally as a result of their liberal views.

Millennials are considered the most liberal generation in comparison to society’s elder generations, but also exhibit “disaffiliation” in regard to their political beliefs. The surveys conducted by Pew Research Center indicate that 50% of Millennials are political independents. This has increased in quantity from 2004, when only 38% of Millennials identified as independents. However, though many Millennials identify as independents, they are most significantly characterized by their Democratic voting behavior, and are the only generation in which conservatives do not significantly outnumber liberals. Though both the Republican and Democratic parties have lost the support of Millennials, the proportion of Republican Millennials has decreased more significantly, from 24% in 2004 to 17% in 2014. The proportion of Democratic Millennials, on the other hand, rose from 30% (2004) to 35% in light of the 2008 election, but has recently fallen to 27%. Though the majority of Millennials identify as independents, 31% identify as liberal, 26% as conservative, and 39% as moderate. As a result, the Millennial generation often supports liberal political and social views. For instance, Millennials are often advocates of same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and marijuana legalization, and their support of these issues has increased tremendously. In 2006, only 34% of Millennials favored marijuana legalization. Now, the percentage has increased to 69%. This dramatic increase in support is a clear indication of the Millennial generation’s new, unconventional values. On the other hand, their views on issues such as abortion and gun control are not significantly different than the views of older generations.

Though the Millennial generation appears to embody more liberal views and nontraditional values, their educational success exceeds beyond their predecessors. The Pew Research Center accounts that one third of Millennials aged 26 to 33 have a four-year college degree or beyond. This characterizes the Millennial generation as the most educated generation of young adults in the history of the United States. However, education does not come without a price. In addition to being the most educated, Millennials must also face “higher student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles” as a result of the Recession from 2007-2009 (pewsocialtrends.org).

The Millennial generation is comprised of a very diverse group of individuals who are redefining tradition through their ideals and values. As a result, Millennials have assisted in the development of a new American identity. To view more information about the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends project, visit http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/.

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About Melanie Boskovich

Melanie Boskovich is a senior at the University of Michigan. She currently serves as Editorial Editor.