Thursday, July 5, 2012
The Millennials Take a Beating
By Alan Caruba
It is to be expected that different generations have different values and view each other as either too old or self-absorbed. I have been thinking lately about the Millennials, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. Like my parent’s generation, born at the beginning of the last century, they are coming of age in the midst of the worst economic times since the Great Depression.
Unlike my parent’s generation, mine, and theirs, they have grown up in a very different era, defined I think by all the technology that allows them to be constantly connected to family and friends, but those who study them find them to be more narcissistic, more materialistic, and more subject to anxiety, depression and, loneliness. They well may be the most medicated generation, often starting in school and leaving them dependent on pharmaceuticals that short-circuit their ability to learn how to cope with the normal stresses of life.
My generation is called the Traditionalists, born pre-1945. We are 8% of the workforce and were succeeded by the Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964. They are 30% of the workforce and more than 70% of them are working passed the age of retirement.
Generation X was born 1965 to 1980. They represent 17% of the U.S. population and were followed by Generation Y, born 1981 to 1995. They are 25% of the population. Technology has had a huge impact on this group.
The Millennials overlap with Generation Y. Neither group can even imagine what it must have been like to have been born before the advent of television, let alone computers and cell phones. They, like Generation X, have passed through heavy liberal indoctrination in the nation’s schools unless they grew up in families and communities where the values of an earlier generation were absorbed.
A recently released study, “Personality Processes and Individual Differences: Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009", paints a less than flattering picture of the Millennials.
Let me say that I do not personally know anyone of the Millennial generation of Americans. I observe them from afar, often wondering if we share the same planet. I feel sorry that they are growing up in a vulgar era and one in which the sexual rules that defined male-female relationships have greatly diminished.
No doubt my grandparents regarded the 1920s Prohibition-era boys and girls who were breaking a lot of the rules of society in the same fashion. The Traditionalists, however, hued close to most of the rules; getting married, raising families, pursuing careers.
Most demographers who study population trends identify the 1960s as a demarcation point so far as shifts in attitudes between the generations can be identified. It was the era of the Civil Rights movement followed by the Vietnam War in the 1970s, and the rise of environmentalism. It was an era of increasing drug use, hippies, protests, and Watergate.
I think the Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s, are going to be seen as being especially harmed as the result of the 2008 financial crisis that left them with an anemic economy and generally unable to move on with their lives. The Traditionalists had Pearl Harbor. The Millennials have 9/11.
In the study, the Millennials are seen as spendthrifts, especially with regard to new technologies that they regard as essential rather than just gadgets. They are “addicted to instant gratification” and, not surprisingly, are “the fastest growing demographic of those who purchase luxury goods.”
Millennials are broke. Not only are they encumbered by student debt but many are unemployed or under-employed in terms of their degrees. The official unemployment rate for those 18 to 29 years of age is 12.1%, but their declining labor force participation includes 1.7 million who are not counted as “unemployed” because they are not in the labor force, often giving up looking because of the lack of jobs. Some may be wondering why none of the billions in bail-out and stimulus money benefited them?
The bad news is that polls show that 49% of Millennials “view socialism in a favorable light” compared with 43% who view it unfavorably. For some, capitalism has failed. Many of the Traditionalists who had lived through the Great Depression felt the same way and they often raised children that shared liberal notions about the economy, supporting entitlement programs that are not only with us today, but are being expanded by the current administration.
The Millennials played a significant role in electing Barack Obama even if they (and a lot of others) did not grasp that he is a Communist. I suspect that a large cohort of Millennials, nearly four years later, feel less enthusiastic about him. The study cited above found that Millennials have less interest in government and are less likely than the Boomers and Generation X to vote.
An organization, Generation Opportunity, with 3.4 million Facebook fans, ages 18 to 29, invited them to “Sign the Declaration” by way of celebrating Independence Day, reaffirming its principles. By July 4th, 1.5 million did so, demonstrating their patriotism and a strong belief in American Exceptionalism, so clearly there is hope for these Millennials!
The odds are, however, that not as many Millennials will vote in November or, if they do, they may decide the problems they are encountering are Obama’s fault and swing toward Romney. He still needs to fashion a message that connects with their deepest concern, themselves!
© Alan Caruba, 2012