Tracking the Millennials

Sam Rainer

January 3, 2010

The Pew Research Center will begin a large project in 2010 involving the millennial generation (according to them, this generation represents those born between 1981 and 2000). It’s one to watch—I’m sure many of the results will reveal important insights into the next generation. Here’s a snippet explaining their research:

Generations, like people, have personalities. Their collective identities typically begin to reveal themselves when their oldest members move into their teens and twenties and begin to act upon their values, attitudes and worldviews.

America’s newest generation, the Millennials, is in the middle of this coming-of-age phase of its life cycle. Its oldest members are approaching age 30; its youngest are approaching adolescence. Who are they? How are they different from — and similar to — their parents? How is their moment in history shaping them? And how might they, in turn, reshape America in the decades ahead? The Pew Research Center will try to answer these questions through a yearlong series of original reports that explore the behaviors, values and opinions of today’s teens and twenty-somethings.

The researchers at Pew already have some data on this generation. From a big-picture perspective, here’s what they have found:

  • They are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the nation’s history; a record low 59.8% are white.
  • They are starting out as the most politically progressive age group in modern history.
  • They are the least religiously observant youths since survey research began charting religious behavior.
  • They are more inclined toward trust in institutions than were either of their two predecessor generations — Gen Xers (who are now ages 30 to 45) and Baby Boomers (now ages 46 to 64) when they were coming of age.

Ethnic diversity and progressive politics do not shock me, but more trust in institutions is a surprise. I do believe (as I’ve blogged before) that ethnic heterogeneity will become normative for this generation—that’s good thing, and churches should respond accordingly. But it’s tough to draw conclusions from these short points, so I’ll be curious to see what more data reveals about this generation. Any preliminary thoughts?

As a side note, I’m in favor of making 1980 the starting point for this generation. It’s easier to remember, and I was born in 1980—that way I can be in the same generation as my little brothers. Of course, I did listen to a lot of grunge growing up, so maybe I am more of a Gen Xer 🙂

5 comments on “Tracking the Millennials”

  1. Sarah Martin says:

    So glad that I ran into this blog post! I follow you on twitter, but I must have missed it. This very moment, I am working on a book for women in their twenties, and this Pew Reaserch will help enrich my book, I am sure.

    Question, what category do those of us who were born in 1979 fall into??? I feel left out!


  2. Those of us born in 1979, depending on the study are either in the Millenial generation or Gen X by proxy. I’ve seen a lot of variety in terms of start date for the start of the millenials.

  3. brad wright says:

    Looks like it will be a very interesting study, like much of what Pew has been putting out lately. Thanks for the heads-up.

  4. Matt says:

    I think a lot of that trust in institutions comes from watching the previous generations abandon those same institutions – and then fail to create the whole world anew without the accumulated wisdom of the traditions they eschewed. Or, at least that’s how I see it as a borderline Millenial/GenXer.

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