Millennials: Myths and Reality

Myth vs. Reality

It might please some elders to know that Millennials respect them. In fact, according to Millennials in Adulthood Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends, a 2014 study by the PEW Research Center, a majority, or about three-fourths of Millennials, say that older adults are superior when it comes to moral values, work ethic and showing respect for others.

In fact, if anything, a lot of this data seems to suggest that, though they are young, Millennials appear to know themselves very well.


  • Like generations before them, Millennials do see themselves as unique.
  • They, along with Gen X site “Technology” as what makes them unique. While Boomers site “Work Ethic” and the Silents before them site “WWII, Depression” as having made them unique.
  • Of the four generations polled, Millennials are the only ones that did not mention “Work Ethic” as one of their principle traits or influencers. Others were “Music/Pop Culture”, “Liberal/tolerant”, “Smarter” and “Clothes.”
  • The other three generations all included “Smarter.”
  • Gen X and Boomers both sited “Respectful.”
  • Boomers and the Silents shared “Values/Morals.”
  • Leaving Gen X alone with “Conservative/Traditional.”
  • The Silents are the only group to claim “Honesty” as one of the things that makes them unique.

Myth Busting
So how is it that 49% of a generation that came of age during a severe world-wide recession believes that the county’s best years are ahead when just two decades ago roughly 24% of young people held this view? Is this divergence just the idealism of youth, or is it also a reaction to the world they have grown up in? What the data shows is, and here I’m quoting Pew, “Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials – the American teens and twenty-somethings currently making the passage into adulthood – have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and receptive to new ideas and ways of living.” In other words, perhaps their diversity, real-life experience and technological savvy have better prepared them for the future than we think.

Myth # 1 Are spoiled and lazy
Instead of being spoiled and lazy, could it be that they are actually more thoughtful, more deliberative, taking their time to assess their opportunities and make good choices? Certainly, many Millennials are depicted as reluctant to leave home. Is this a reflection of an economic reality - debt burden and high unemployment - as well as a tighter bond between parent and child compared with previous generations?

Myth #2 Are more interested in working to live than pursuing meaningful employment
Their interest in working to live as opposed to finding meaningful employment might reflect the fact that they may need to change jobs and reinvent themselves 7 times or more during their careers. Or, perhaps it’s a reaction against the overzealous work ethic of their parents and grandparents. Many of whom they’ve seen experience serious setbacks as a result of the recession.

Myth #3 Value connectedness more than previous generations
Their tendency to value connectedness is not only a reflection of the world of social media their generation invented, but also a reflection of the reality of world that is seemingly smaller, and a world economy that is more tightly integrated than in any previous time in history.

Myth #4 Are overexposed and share too much of themselves on social media
In this instance myth proves to be the reality. With 81% of Millennials on Facebook, the generation that gave us the “selfie” is clearly more exposed through social media then the "Me generation” X’ers that came before them. The good news is that when asked 9 out of 10 Millennials agreed that they do, in fact, post too much. Whether this growing self-awarness will result in changed behavior or not? We will just have to wait and see.

Myth #5 Have a whole new value system
It would be a stretch to suggest that any generation would have a whole new value system. The Millennials are young and values change as we age. It is also important to remember that a generation’s views are in large part shaped by, and are in reaction to, those of the previous generation. So, while Boomers and Generation X may look at Millennials and shake their heads in disbelief, they may need to look no further than the world they’ve created. After all each generation must first adapt to its environment to survive before it can begin to make its own mark on civilization.

Studies comprising the PEW Report:
Data and conclusions for this article were drawn from Millennials in Adulthood Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends and Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. Both are part of a broader and ongoing examination by the Pew Research Center entitled: Millennials; Portrait of Generation Next.

Millennials in AdulthoodDetached from Institutions, Networked with Friends

Most of the analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 14-23, 2014 among a national sample of 1,821 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, including an oversample of young adults ages 18 to 33 (481 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,340 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 786 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used. In order to increase the number of 18 to 33 year-old respondents in the sample, additional interviews were conducted with that cohort by screening a separate random digit dial cell sample. The landline and both cell phone samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who is now at home. Interviews in both cell samples were conducted with the person who answered the phone if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older (main cell sample) or 18-33 (cell phone youth oversample).

Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change

The results of a telephone survey conducted Jan 14 -27, 2010 on landlines and cell phones with a nationally representative sample of 2.020 adults and an oversample of respondents ages 18 - 29 for a total of 830 respondents in this age group. The margin of error due to sampling is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample and plus or minus 4 percentage points for the sample of Millennials. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Data from the 2010 survey were supplemented by finding from many other Pew Research Center Surveys including: a survey on changing attitudes toward work conducted Oct 21 - 25 2009, with a nationally representative sample of 1,028 respondents ages 18 and older and a survey on generational differences conducted July 20 - August 2, 2009 with a nationally representative sample of 1,815 people ages 16 and older. Additional data comes from analysis by the Pew Research Center of census data other surveys conducted over the years by the Pew Research Centers Internet & American Life Project.

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