Millennial Generation Characteristics

Two young adults hanging out on a fire escape outside of a city loft.
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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.

1 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.

2 Political Progressivism

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.

3 Social Attitudes

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.

4 Education

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.

Agatha Clark is from Portland, Ore., and has been writing about culture since 2001. She specializes in intercultural communication and is completing a Bachelor Arts at the University of Oregon with double majors in linguistics and Spanish. Clark is fascinated by expressions of human psychology and culture. Before refocusing her educational path toward language, she originally went to school to become an artist.