Each Generation has its strengths and flaws, which are usually oversimplified into broad generalizations and stereotypes. The Millennials, or Generation Y, are generally assumed to be narcissistic, tech-obsessed and immoral. However, despite assumptions that millennials are lazy or apathetic, evidence suggests quite the opposite.
Millennials are intrepid and driven, particularly when it comes to education and social change. As Salon reports, “According to the numbers, millennials do have a harder time finding employment than Generation Xers. But overall, millennials have done a better job of staying in school and finishing their education. Moreover, with the exception of marijuana, millennials appear to use significantly less drugs and alcohol than their generational predecessors.”
Members of Generation Y have been poorly represented in media recently. TIME Magazine described in a headline that Millennials are “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” Author Ron Alsop labeled Millennials as “Trophy Kids.” These not so flattering descriptors reflect the general belief of who the members of Generation Y are.
Robert Samuelson wrote a much gentler reflection in The Washington Post. He says that parents share the stress and anxiety of their progeny, millennials. Generation Y faces an ever shrinking job market, compounding such worries. “Among 18- to 34-year-olds, unemployment peaked at 13.9 percent in 2010 and was 9.1 percent in June…this was much higher than the 7.2 percent average of the 2001-2007 economic expansion,”
Samuelson reports. Millennials also face an enormous amount of debt. These statistics make it easy to understand why Millennials may not be so eager to set out on their own and “grow up” as Samuelson notes.
Americans blame the economy for the financial status of so many struggling families and the lack of jobs, an economy that millennials had no hand in shaping. Furthermore, it isn’t hard to believe that Generation Y is less divided politically having witnessed the flaws in the Bush administration and the lack of promised economic growth under the Obama administration; millennials are not aligning themselves with specific parties or are simply removing themselves from politics. As the Pew Center reports, “they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt [and] distrustful of people.”
Moreover, the same Pew study explains that Generation Y is the “most racially diverse generation in American history.” Despite this fact, Chris Ostendorf demonstrates that, “the stunted, privileged millennial narrative that has almost exclusively dominated the mainstream overtime is also a fundamentally white, middle-class one. That’s not to say there isn’t some truth to this narrative, but it doesn’t fully account for people of different races, class levels, or sexual orientations.” This stereotype excludes one of the most powerful facets of Generation Y: diversity.
Ostendorf asks, “So who are millennials really? They’re not as sarcastic as Generation X. They’re not as partisan as baby boomers. And they’re probably not a lot of other things too. But instead of trying to define what they aren’t, or what they are, now seems like a good time to stop trying to figure millennials out altogether, and let them determine their collective (and more importantly, their individual) identities for themselves.”
As stereotypes are being rewritten and new reports flood mainstream media, it seems that Generation Y should be left to itself for definitions. The Millennials will not be marked by their predecessors’ generalizations but by their own actions.