Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, or Echo Boomers, are the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, the first to come of age in the new millennium (2000).
Different sources place the exact period of birth for qualification at different endpoints – the Pew Research Center places them definitively between 1981 and 1996. According to them, anyone born after 1996 should be grouped with the next cohort, loosely referred to as Generation Z. Other sources, however, include those born in the late 1970s (Nielsen Media Center) and even early 2000s (U.S. Census Bureau, Strauss & Howe).
The term itself was coined by authors Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book, Millennials Rising:
The Next Great Generation (2000), which grew out of an earlier work called Generations: The History of America’s Future (1991). Both works set out to understand a demographic group’s attitudes, beliefs and tendencies through the lens of the era into which they were born.
Millennials in the U.S. make up approximately 25% of the total population and purportedly have an annual spending power of up to $200 billion. With figures like that, it’s no wonder they are the most studied generation by market research groups.
While it’s counter-productive to try to reduce the habits and tendencies of millions (80 million in the U.S. alone) of people of diverse backgrounds to monolithic traits, an attempt can be made to identify certain shared aspects as well as common perceptions attributable to this generation.
First, it is a fact that Millennials grew up during a time when much of the technology that we take for granted today made its debut:
- The iPhone – largely credited with taking the smartphone mainstream – was introduced by Apple in 2007, which is when most Millennials were in their teens.
- Facebook, the grandfather of social networking (though Friendster and MySpace came before), introduced a few years earlier, became embraced on a mass scale during this time.
- Google became synonymous with “web search” during this time, taking over Yahoo!, Web Crawler and AltaVista as the most popular search engine.
- P2P (“Peer-to-peer”) file-sharing became widespread, first through applications like Napster, KaZaa and Limewire, then through the protocol known as BitTorrent.
While it would be incorrect to assume that every Millennial had access to and used these new forms of technology regularly, the fact that they existed and were available does allow certain generalizations.
For instance, all of the above combined to create a world where information and content were at one’s fingertips at all times – previous generations had to do research in a library, make plans to meet or speak to someone on the phone to catch up, buy content in physical bookstores or media outlets.
Some claim that this “instant access” mentality has resulted in Millennials typically having short attention spans, craving instant gratification and expecting things for free.
On the flipside, others argue, they are able to multi-task, move on quickly from setbacks and are willing to spend more money on things they deem to be worth the price.
Other assumptions about them are centered around the idea of Millennials being the “Me Generation,” which is to say that because they grew up creating their own “individual brands” on social media, they are narcissistic, require constant feedback and demand flexibility around their needs.
The flipside of that is that they are creative, responsive to others and willing to adapt, whether in their personal lives or in the public sphere.
Facts About Millennials
The following are some statistics about Millennials in the U.S.
- They are already considered the biggest generation at 80 million (expected to reach peak in 2038 at 95 million).
- They are ethnically diverse – about 15% are foreign-born, and 1 in 4 speaks a language other than English at home.
- 20% identify as LGBTQ (12% identify as transgender or non-binary)
- 26% were married by age 32
- 53% of Millennial households have children
- 64% of dads and 50% of moms believe that they have equal responsibility when it comes to child care
- 50% consider themselves politically independent
- 57% characterize their views as “mostly” or “consistently” liberal
- 37% would be willing to pay more for a product or service that supports a cause they believe in