No firm definition exists for the Millennial generation. Depending on who is doing the figuring, the first Millennials were born between 1978 and 1984 and the last of the generation were born between 1993 and 2000. Millennials are a diverse and politically progressive group whose values represent a major shift from those of previous generations. This generation is characterized by reduced identification with political and religious groups, support for social equality and high levels of education.
Changing Social Profile
The Millennial generation is more racially diverse than previous generations and represents a shift in family values and structure. Approximately 43 percent of Millennials are Hispanic, African American, Asian or identify with another non-white group -- the largest percentage of any American generation. Fewer Millennials (26 percent) in the 18 to 32 age group were married in 2014 than in any previous generation, and the average age of marriage in that time was 29 for men and 27 for women, an increase of over six years in comparison to 1975. Millennials are also more likely to form non-traditional families than earlier generations, and are more frequently single parents, cohabiting and unmarried with children or married without children.
More than any previous generation, Millennials are likely to embrace politically progressive views and be unaffiliated with a political party. Although half of this generation self-identifies as politically independent, Millennials as a whole are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. Important views that differ from previous generations include stronger support of cooperative foreign policy and support for universal health care. Millennial voters are also more likely to feel positively about immigration and support a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
As with political affiliation, religious affiliation is declining among Millennials. Nearly a third of this generation identifies as having no religious affiliation, and only 36 percent describe themselves as "a religious person," while more than half of the members of Generation X, the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation characterized themselves in this way. In addition to changing attitudes toward religion, Millennials represent changing attitudes toward social issues. The Millennial generation is substantially more supportive of gay marriage than previous generations, and perceives racial and gender equality as socially given.
Millennials are the generational group with the highest level of education in American history. In addition to having the largest-ever percentage of high school graduates, a 2012 survey showed that for the first time, a third of 25- to 29-year-old Americans had earned a bachelor's degree. According to Pew Research, these trends can be attributed to economic recession and changing attitudes toward the importance of education. This shift is clearly seen in a poll from 1978, when 36 percent of those surveyed characterized college as "very important," a number which increased to 75 percent in 2010.
- Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends: Millennials in Adulthood
- Washington Post: More Diverse Millennial Generation Rewrites Traditions
- Center for American Progress: New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation
- Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends: Record Shares of Young Adults Have Finished Both High School and College
- Boston Globe: The Millennials, 1984-1993
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