Are Millennials More Than an Entitled Generation?

Research suggests this group is the most educated and diverse.

Posted Sep 23, 2019

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As a millennial and psychologist, I’m not going to lie.  I realized this summer that my feelings about millennials are more mixed than I would want to admit.  In fact, I thought I was gung ho about the awesomeness of my generation.  However, I realized biases that kept slipping through my mind as I worked on a manuscript focused on none other than millennials.

Never mind the fact that I’ve been writing this Millennial Media blog for close to a decade.  But somehow, almost imperceptibly, all the things I love about being a millennial and associating with this group began to shift.  Maybe it was going off of social media and becoming completely irrelevant to “friends” (because let’s be real, actual friends put in the effort). 

Or maybe it was all the negative press that you slowly absorb, not unlike the implicit biases made famous in Dr. Banaji’s IAT tests.  Every time I went to write about working with millennials in therapy, I found myself qualifying how unlikeable or difficult they may be to work with.  Even though in truth, some of my absolute favorite therapy clients (off the record, of course) have been my millennials.

While I was doing research for the book, I came across a viral story that came out in TIME several years back written by Joel Stein. He joked about being a typical millennial, procrastinating on the very article he was writing. He discussed stereotypes of laziness and entitlement, but also ended on a more positive note commenting on millennials as highly adaptive to their circumstances. And the reality is that he is right—millennials have adapted to the trends of the times in which they were raised.  The internet has made so much more possible than ever before whether vocationally, socially, or even romantically.  There are options at our disposal that never existed in prior generations.

Furthermore, as I delved further into the research, it was clear that while countless negative stereotypes exist about millennials, there are also some key findings regarding millennials strengths that are less appreciated:

Most Educated Generation-according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center and NPR, 39% of millennials possess a bachelor’s degree or higher in comparison to 29% of Generation X, and 25% of Boomers.

​​Most Diverse Generation-a recent study by the Brookings Institution (2018) found 44% of millennials to be a member of a minority group.  Due to immigration from Asian and Latin American nations, interracial marriages, and fertility patterns, millennials are currently the most diverse generation to date (although early data suggests Generation Z may be closing in on this statistic). 

Wellness Generation-as a result of more spending on health and fitness, some have dubbed millennials the wellness generation. They are likely to exercise more, smoke less, and eat healthier.  The rise of social media has likely also fueled this with influencers and food bloggers inspiring healthy lifestyles and eating. Juicing, detoxing, and dietary choices such as veganism, paleo, and keto have surged in popularity among this group.

Therapy Generation-due to having grown up with parents more openly attending therapy and greater de-stigmatization of such services, this generation is seen as eager to engage in self-improvement and manage their mental health. This is positive news given the rise in anxiety, depression, and burnout in this generation.  Further, celebrity and social media figures openly discussing their own mental health struggles has further opened the doors for greater acceptance and openness toward therapy in this generation.

In addition to these generational descriptors, additional terms used to positively encapsulate millennials includes the following:

  • Tech-savvy
  • Resourceful
  • Zero Intolerance
  • Multi-Taskers
  • Eco-Conscious
  • Team Player
  • Activist
  • Enthusiastic

It is easy to confound the tech-savvy and social media presence of millennials as a deficit.  And the media, of course, loves to play up millennials as the “me” generation.  But when the economic times during which millennials came to age dubbed them also the titles of the “debt generation” and “rental generation,” it is no surprise that many millennials have been savvy enough to live at home with parents to save on rent or work side gigs for extra income. 

Millennials have made it possible to ship a mattress to your door, rent clothes, and live minimalistically not just because it’s trendy, but better for the environment. Calls challenging fast fashion and disposable furniture have abounded among this generation. Legalization of same-sex marriage, Black Lives Matter, and so many other social issues have been advocated for or called into question. Yes, it can be easy to deride millennials for the many things they may not be doing when compared to Boomers or Traditionalists.  But the jury is still out on how millennials will ultimately be known and remembered. For what it’s worth, I’m an optimist by nature.  I  imagine millennials will “hack” even more world problems over the years, even if it takes a hashtag to do it.

References

Frey, W.  (2018).  The millennial generation: A demographic bridge to America’s diverse future. Retrieved from:  https://www.brookings.edu/research/millennials/

Millennials in Adulthood. (2015, July 28). Retrieved from

https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/#racial-diversity

Vogels, E. (2019, September 9). Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-   tank/2019/09/09/us-generations-technology-use