Infographic Of The Day: The Blessing And Curse Of Being A Millennial

You heard constantly about the millennial generation—that they're tech-savvy, and different from everyone that came before. It's not just hype, or vanity on the part of the youngsters: People who are 18-29 right now have markedly different attitudes, beliefs, and mores than any generation preceding them.

This infographic by Online Graduate Programs does a good job of summing up all that data. Let's start with a definition of the generation, and their politics:

It's that second panel about politics that's really surprising: The percentage voting for Obama represents the largest age-based disparity ever recorded. It's worth pausing on that for a second, because voting, contrary to popular opinion, doesn't tend to change all that much as you age. Political scientists have consistently shown that who you vote for as a young person tends to define your voting patterns for the rest of your life. Thus, some people have concluded that the entire millennial generation has been "lost" to Republicans. (And if you think that they'll change their minds because of Obama's first-term struggles, think again: 60% blame his opponents for his inability to get anything done.)

But where the differences become truly stark are in lifestyle. Millennials are the most godless, least-married, and most tech-savvy generation ever:

But despite all these gifts—an ease with technology, excellent educations, a surprisingly durable optimism—millennials are at the same time cursed. Simply put, they were born at the worst time in 50 years as far as careers go, having entered a horrid job market:

Does that matter? In a word, yes: Sociologists have shown that being born in a recession dampens your earnings throughout your lifetime, simply because the first jobs you get are the ones that define much of your success in later life. Almost all the wage increases that you'll get arrive before you're 40. Thus, if you enter the workforce and struggle to find a job, you'll be consistently hobbled by a lack of experience and tenure.

But maybe that's a good thing. It may be that millennials are a generation apart in one sense that hasn't shown up yet in the data: Plagued by dead-end career prospects, many seem to have turned to everything from crafts to self-improvement as a way to find meaning outside of what they do. A less materialistic, more happiness-focused generation seems like a very good thing given how obsessed America has been with simply getting more, no matter what. But it might also be that a lack of prospects makes this generation the most entrepreneurial we've ever seen—after all, innovation is usually born during times of hardship.

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4 Comments

  • Gray Sun Light

    One of America's dominate myths is the "myth
    of the individual" where, as Bill Clinton so aptly put it: "every
    politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built
    himself." Although it's not just politicians anymore. This is the myth
    we were socialized with, that we are independent actors who make our own
    decisions irrespective of the social and economic circumstances
    surrounding us. It is the ideology that allows for a system that fosters
    dependency to blame people for becoming dependent, and it's really not
    true anymore. Millennials were reared in a time of diminishing buying power of the dollar, increased centralization of corporate and governmental power, and a technology boom that has effectively nullified a great deal of skills that were once considered practical. Anyone who would tell you to blame yourself for becoming what you
    were socialized to be is really ignorant, and unfortunately, there are a
    great many ignorant and deluded people in our society who honestly
    believe society is nothing more than a bunch of self-motivated actors
    bouncing off one-another with no relation to the whole whatsoever. The
    key to changing is to become aware of the myths and the stories, and to
    try to live one's own truth fully. Easier said than done, however.
    Society is like a jig-saw puzzle that forces you to adopt a certain
    shape to fit in. When the individual piece decides to change it's shape,
    all the forces are against it. If the piece succeeds, however, the rest
    of the puzzle must shift in some miniscule way to accommodate the
    change.

  • Full Name

    This infographic is pretty depressing, as is the positive reaction towards it.

    66% of people voted for Obama, who has done absolutely nothing toward bettering the economic situation we're currently in, much less the crisis looming in the future with Boomer retirement. Everything he has done in Washington has been sucking up to the big monied interests in Finance, Insurance, and the Boomer generation. Only 59% of these political know-nothings are dissatisfied with being saddled with insurmountable debt and being exploited in an economic system that won't protect domestic jobs and is more concerned with meeting quotas than getting effective, innovative workers.

    Millenials are receiving more so-called education, but in reality are just buying into the propaganda they've been sold all their lives that "education" is good. Despite the fact that most of this so-called education is useless in the real world, and that a culture of bureaucracy and credentialism has made it so you can't get entry level jobs without a 4 year degree and thousands of dollars of debt. Real smart guys.

  • Martin Hale

    Political scientists have consistently shown that who you vote for as a
    young person tends to define your voting patterns for the rest of your
    life.
    That's just nonsense.  I am a person who was near the leading edge of the Baby Boom and we were decidedly liberal in our youth - age, experience, responsibilities and accumulated wealth have all served to turn an awful lot of us into centre-right/right people politically.  After 50 years of being lied to by politicians who just want to stick their hands in you wallet, you figure out that they're all blowing smoke up your butt and you best not believe too much of what they say if you're wise.  Almost all of the people I knew when I was young and everyone was an anti-war liberal are now buying guns and moving to Texas to get away from the pesky nanny-staters.

    Winston Churchill famously observed:

    “If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”
     

  • McGehee

    As a Boomer, I caution Millennials: one of the things that fucked up my generation was willingness to believe the hype about how historic and uniquely superior we supposedly were.

    For the sake of your posterity -- lest they look at you the way you look at us -- please don't make the same mistake.