By, Dr. Kerris Dillon
Millennials are the generation of people born between the early 1980’s and the late 1990’s. Their other name is Generation Y. Millennials experienced a host of different socio-economic backgrounds, tend to be very tolerant of differences, and are the first generation that is not going to college at the rates once previously seen. They are living with their parents longer, are older when first experiencing sex, are starting to drive at older ages, and are getting married much later than previous generations.
Those that state Millennials are not politically active are not accurate. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials outvoted older generations in the 2018 Congressional election (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/29/gen-z-millennials-and-gen-x-outvoted-older-generations-in-2018-midterms/). Their populations rival the Baby Boom generation (in numbers) and political candidates have taken stock of their wants and needs.
Pew Research Center has concluded that the wealth of Millennials is greatly dependent upon college education. Those Millennials who were able to get a bachelors degree and actually secure a full-time job average a little over $50,000 a year. Those Millennials with some college education are averaging less than $30,000 a year (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/29/gen-z-millennials-and-gen-x-outvoted-older-generations-in-2018-midterms/).
As a population, Millennials are moving less than generations that came before them. For those Millennials that are currently 25-37 years old, only 46% are married and only 50% of them have children. What is even more shocking is that it is estimated that 25% of Millennials will never get married (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/29/gen-z-millennials-and-gen-x-outvoted-older-generations-in-2018-midterms/).
On a personal level, I have greatly enjoyed teaching the Millennial generation. As a college professor, I have taught hundreds of Millennials and have been surprised by their intelligence and current event knowledge. It makes sense that they know what is going on in the world as they were the first generation to be raised with the Internet. Millennials attended school during the “No Child Left Behind” initiative and saw their recesses and Social Studies classes cut if their peers did not score adequately in Mathematics and Reading.
I have noticed geography skills of Millennials are not always the greatest, but if they don’t know where something is they just take out their phones and “Google” it. They see nothing wrong with not knowing an answer because the small little computer in their pocket can provide one.
This can be tough for Generation X and the Baby Boom generation to comprehend as intelligence was once considered a vast knowledge of a variety of subjects. Past generations learned facts and memorized as much as they could. Millennials and Generation Z have complex thoughts and ideas, but often lack the basic facts and evidence to back up what they are saying.
Millennials do not lack basic knowledge in all areas. They have a vast knowledge in subjects that interest them. It is often difficult to interest them in subjects that they don’t see a relevance to. They don’t want to waste their time with anything they feel is irrelevant. As an educator, if you can’t explain the relevance of what they are learning than you have probably lost their attention.
Millennials adore educators that instruct using a variety of instructional strategies and tell interesting stories. They long for role models in their communities and latch-on to teachers that help them navigate the problems they’re experiencing. Millennials are anything but lazy. They expect greatest from those around them and try to attach to people that they can learn from. They are smart in their choices and they don’t waste money on cheap goods that won’t last or personal property that doesn’t gain them value over time. They aren’t afraid to research something they don’t know on YouTube and are less apt to approach subject matter experts in the community.
If there is one thing that other generations can learn from Millennials it is to live in the present. As a generation that watched their parents work themselves to the bone, Millennials were determined to work in more efficient ways and under their own terms. It is because of Millennials that businesses are allowing their employees to work from home or in small cafes around the city.
Businesses that are refusing to allow its employees to work from home are slowly dying and are not understanding why this is the case. Fear-based mentalities of lost productivity which are not accurate are sending employees to work for companies with more flexibility. Most employees that work from home are happier, more satisfied with their jobs, and more productive because they believe their company cares about their well-being.
It will be interesting to see how Generation Z (the generation that follows Generation X) fairs in politics, education, marriage, children, and wealth as compared to the Millennials. I hesitate to draw too many conclusions as they are still a young generation and have not yet found their footing in society. It is my guess that they may be much more involved in politics than any other generation as the current state of the nation is extremely divided. Maybe Generation Z will be able to build a bridge between race, class, sex, gender, age, and religion in this nation. Communication, empathy, understanding, compassion, and education are definitely needed right now and in the future.