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Millennials: The Next Generation

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 05, 2011

In 2010, Pew Research Center released a report called, "Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next."  The report sums up their research on the Millennials, calling them:  "confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change."  The study was done over the phone with 2,020 adults responding, 830 of which would be considered the Millennial Generation ("MG") (aged 18 to 29).

This generation is of particular interest to researchers because they are the "always connected" generation -- with more than eight out of ten responders saying they sleep with their cell phones right next to their bed.  One-quarter said that technology is what sets their generation apart.  For the most part, the MG is more connected, more diverse, more liberal, more educated and less religious than previous generations. A summary of the report follows.  If you don’t want to read all of the statistics, please feel free to skip to the end.


In response to the question of whether they had a profile on a social networking site, 41% of all respondents said they did.  However, 75% of the MG said they had a profile (as compared to 50% of Gen X (30-45 years old), 30% of Baby Boomers (46-64 years old) and 6% of the Silent generation (65+ years old)).  Almost one-third of the MG visit their social media profile multiple times per day.

Eighty-eight percent of the MG use their cell phone to text.  Only 77% of Gen X'ers, 51% of Baby Boomers and 9% of the Silent generation send text messages.  Eighty percent of MG'ers have sent text messages in the previous 24 hours, 64% admit to texting while driving and 41% have a cell phone but no land line.  Compare that to 24% of Gen X'ers, 13% of Boomers and 5% of Silents.  Ninety percent of the MG uses the internet.  Not surprisingly, the Millennial generation says that new technology makes their life easier.

More and more each year, people in general are turning to the internet as their main news source.  For the MG, 65% use the television as their main news source, and 59% use the internet.  Barely one-quarter turn to newspapers.  By comparison, only 13% of the Silent generation uses the internet for news.

Thanks to the current state of the economy, 37% of the MG is currently unemployed.  Only three out of five MG'ers were raised by both parents and a full one-quarter do not have a religious affiliation.  Only one in five is actually married (and, in general, young people are less likely to be married now than 20 years ago).  For their parents, that number was doubled at the same stage of their life.  One-third are parents and more than a third of women in the generation who gave birth in 2006 were unmarried.  Seventy-five percent have never been married (as compared with 43% of the Silent generation, 52% of Boomers and 67% of Gen X'ers at the same age).  The MG is also more likely to be living with a family member or roommate than previous generations.

This is also the most liberal generation to date.  They are more tolerant of gay couples raising children, interracial marriage, mothers working outside of the home and couples living together without being married.  More than half (54%) say they have a close friend or family member who is gay.  Only 46% of Gen X'ers, 44% of Baby Boomers and 26% of the Silent generation report the same.  Nearly two-thirds of the MG supports gay marriage.  The one thing that the MG did take issue with was single mothers deciding to have children.  Fifty-nine percent said it was bad for society.  Only 62% of MG'ers said their parents were married while they were growing up (compared with 71% of Gen X'ers, 85% of Boomers and 87% of Silents).

The MG is the most likely to job-hop and over two-thirds expect to switch careers at some point in their life.  That is compared with 55% of Gen X'ers and 41% of Baby Boomers.  Fifty-seven percent stated that they do not expect to stay with their current employer for the rest of their working life.  However, 62% of Gen X'ers say they expect to stay with their current employer until they retire.

When asked about important issues in their lives, the number one response was "being a good parent" (52%) followed by "having a successful marriage" (30%) and "helping others in need" (21%).  Owning a home and having a high-paying career also make the list. Although only 25% of the MG has an official religious affiliation, most still have traditional beliefs about life after death, heaven and hell, etc.

The MG is more diverse than previous generations, with only 61% as non-Hispanic whites (Gen X is comparable at 62% but Baby Boomers are at 73% and the Silent Generation is at 80%).  Given that most immigrants appear to arrive in their thirties, those who make up the MG are actually more likely to be born in the United States.  Eleven percent of US-born MG'ers have at least one immigrant parent, which matches that of the Silent generation, whose parents came to the US in the late 1800's.  The MG is also the most racially tolerant group.

Despite the bad economy (or perhaps, due to the economy), this generation is set to be the most educated of all previous generations -- almost 40% of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2008.  One in eight has had to move in with their parents again due to the state of the economy.  Only 2% of MG males have served in the military, which compares to 6% of Gen X'er men and 24% of Silent men.  54% of MG'ers have at least some college education (up from 49% of Gen X'ers, 35% of Boomers and 24% of the Silent generation).

Although the generation has a whole seems to be optimistic about the future, one-third of the MG are currently unemployed and only one-third say they earn enough money to lead the kind of lifestyle they want.  Another one-third say they rely on family members for financial assistance, even though 14% of those are employed full-time. Despite those numbers, 41% of Millennials stated they are satisfied with the way the country is headed (as compared to 36% of Gen X'ers, 23% of Boomers and 14% of the Silent generation).  Those with higher incomes, are married and who attend church regularly are among the happiest of respondents.  Only 61% of the MG has medical insurance, as opposed to 82% of those over the age of 30.  Fewer also own homes (22% vs. 71% of adults over 30).  Again, though, the generation is optimistic about their future and realize that time is on their side.  Eighty-eight percent say they expect to eventually earn an income to live comfortably.

Despite believing that their elders have better morals and a stronger work ethic, the MG actually believes it is an adult child's responsibility to care for their elderly parents (a higher percentage, in fact, than other generations).  Nearly two-thirds of MG'ers felt this way.  They also get along with their parents more than previous generations.  Only 10% said they often had arguments with their parents.  19% of the Gen X'ers stated they often had arguments with their parents at the same age.

Tattoos are popular among the MG, with 38% having at least one (compared to 32% of Gen X'ers, 15% of Boomers and 6% of Silents).  Of those who are tattooed, almost 70% have more than one.  However, 72% said their tattoos are not easily visible.  Nearly one-quarter of Millennials have piercings in places other than their ears (as opposed to 9% of Gen X'ers and only 1% of those over the age of 45).

All four generations are fairly equal on the issue of "going green."  All make valiant attempts to recycle, buy green products and buy organic foods.  The percentages are higher for those Millennials who make more than $75,000 per year, which makes sense as green products and organic foods can be more expensive.  It looks like the MG is more active than the older generations and spend less time watching television.  Nearly 28% own a gun (which is slightly lower than the average of 34%).

According to a poll of 18,000 registered voters in 2009, 37% of the MG identified themselves as Democrat, 22% as Republican and 38% as independent.  In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials supported Barrack Obama over John McCain, 66% to 32%.  The generation has leaned left in huge numbers since being able to vote in the 2004 and 2006 elections (62% Democrat, 30% Republican).  However, by the end of 2009, views were changing and those numbers were more narrow -- 54% to 40%, still slightly in favor of leaning Democrat.  Regardless, the MG still has the lowest voter turnout at elections.  Millennial approval of President Obama's job performance has dropped from 73% in February 2009 to 57% in February 2010.

Self-Reported Ideology by Generation

                                                      Liberal                Moderate                Conservative

Millennial Generation                    29%                    40%                            28%

Generation X                                  20%                     38%                           38%

Baby Boomers                                18%                    36%                            43%

Silent Generation                           15%                    35%                            45%

           The percentage of young voters who turned out in 2000 was at 40% and jumped up to 49% in 2004.  Older adults rose 3 percentage points to 68%.  Young voters again turned out in higher numbers in 2009 -- to 51% -- which is still behind the 67% turnout for older voters.


How can you use this information to your advantage?  Understanding how the Millennial Generation thinks is the key to learning how to market to them.  The best piece of information you can take away from this report is that this generation (and future generations) are relying heavily on technology and spending a lot of time on social media websites.  Make sure your business is "in the know."  Make your social media plan with Social Sonar today!

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