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The Millenials A

s 2015 screams its way to a close with attacks across the globe and as thousands of Syrians continue to fl ee from confl ict only to arrive in chaos, there is one fact that could be easily overlooked in the midst of such uncertainty and tragedy: 2015 was also the year that the “Millen- nial” generation grew even larger than the supersized Baby Boomers to become the largest living genera- tion. This is broadly true of many

places, but focusing on the United States for the moment, millennials (born 1982-2000, aged 15-33) now number 83.1 million and represent more than one quarter of the pop- ulation. As was widely predicted, they have surpassed the 75.4 mil- lion Boomers (born 1946-1964, aged 51-69) and they aren’t done yet, as this group is expected to continue to grow due to a steady and youth- ful immigration that

is outpacing

the death rate of the Boomers and will ultimately make the millennials more diverse than any generation that preceded them. Clearly there is scope for a new ‘generation gap’ - but what does it mean and what does it matter in the face of the currently grim backdrop of world events? The answer: potentially everything. The basic idea of a ‘generation’ is an analytical construct that has been used to establish a consensus as to the boundaries in terms of the atti- tudes and ideas that separate one ‘generation’ from another. The Pew Research Center, one of the most respected research bodies in this area, has established that the oldest ‘Millennial’ was born in 1981, even as they continue to do research and

60 The American

pursue evidence as to precise birth date of the youngest ‘Millennial’ (at the moment deemed to be 1997) and identify the appearance of any new generation on the horizon. However, the terms ‘millennial’

and ‘baby boomer’, ‘gen Xer’ or even the ‘silent generation’ are too often used in the profi t-seeking context of marketing strategies and con- sumer trends. Yet, if we turned our attention away from whether or not millennials are tweeting or ins- tagraming, buying Apple or Droids, and used these ideas to think about other, much more important, issues instead, we may learn about some of the more serious challenges that lie ahead. For example, last summer, the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI), the HEAD Foundation, and employer branding fi rm Universum conducted what was called “the largest independent study ever con- ducted on millennials” and surveyed more than 16,000 people


across the globe to investigate their fears, hopes, beliefs, and desires. Interestingly, most did not fear

that their standard of living would be low – though a closer examina- tion does reveal a strong geographic correlation. 71 percent of millenni- als worldwide believe they will enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents, but when broken out – that includes 85 percent of millennials in Nigeria who strongly felt they would have higher standards of living than their parents, compared to only 20 percent of millennials in Western Europe who felt the same way. The conclusion was that the mil- lennial ‘take’ on this fear is actually

By Alison Holmes

one of stagnation in terms of their advancement and development, with 40 percent saying they feared getting stuck with no development opportunities, and 32 percent saying they feared they wouldn’t meet their career goals and an equal number fearing they wouldn’t fi nd careers that “matched their personalities”. Perhaps more interesting – and

certainly more fundamental – is the generation gap in terms of basic language. Terms such as ‘liberal’, ‘socialist’, or ‘economic fairness’ are used, but it is crucial that older gen- erations (Gen Xers and Boomers in particular) not mistake the millennial view of such concepts as parallel to their own. This was the conclusion of the study conducted by the Rea- son Foundation and the Rupe Foun- dation that engaged 2,400 18-to- 29-year-olds earlier this year. From their report, 62% of millen- nials call themselves ‘liberal’ – which means they may favor gay marriage and pot legalization and has little or no implication as to their views on government spending. Being socially liberal is, apparently, being liberal. End of story. Indeed, 53% even say they would support a candidate who was socially liberal and fi scally con- servative. Similarly, as millennials have no

fi rsthand knowledge or even mem- ory of the Soviet Union or the Cold War the fact that 42% say they pre- fer ‘socialism’ may not be surprising, but then again, only 16% can defi ne the term as government ownership of the means of production. In fact, when asked whether they want an economy managed by the ‘free mar- ket’ or by ‘government’, 64% want the

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