Millennials – and other generations

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

We in America have never been good with transitions.

Unlike many nations, (up until recently at least) our political leadership has shifted from party to party without much fuss or controversy.

Our generational transitions seem to be a bit more ragged – if not, at times, outright antagonistic.

Each generation seems to, for the most part, have little interest in, or regard for the values and traditions of the previous generation.

COVID and the Trump years have redefined and recast roles and assumption about everything from work (and pay) to food to authority, responsibility and respect.

While the definition of a Millennial varies, the Pew Research Center defines a Millennial as someone born between 1981 and 1996. That means that while Millennial is often used as a shorthand for “young person,” the oldest members of this cohort are rapidly entering and stepping one toe at a time into their forties.

The term Millennial was coined in 1991 by historians Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book Generations. They decided on the label based on the fact that many Millennials would be graduating high school in or close to the year 2000. They’ve also been called Generation Y or Gen Y, among many other things.

Millennials are certainly the most studied generation. So far.

They are the last generation with something like vestigial memory of a pre-digital culture.

Millennials are far more likely than the generation following them to have slowed their use of some platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter.

They remember, sometimes fondly, and some times not so fondly, the prevalence of physical media, like DVDS and compact discs. And many of them are nostalgic for the dominant media that came before they did – vinyl LPs.

Most of them are highly literate – and many have been known to read “dead trees” – even in public!

Millennials are also more likely to use and support public libraries than other generations.

Millennials often get blamed for “killing” certain industries.

For better or for worse, the Millennial generation has been accused of killing mayonnaise, shopping malls, paper napkins, the McDonald’s Big Mac, and much more.

For all too obvious reasons, the generation has also been blamed for falling birth rates and home-ownership rates.

In spite of becoming adults within an economy that seems to have every card, from student debt to absurdly high home prices, Millennials are far better than the previous generation (or two) at prepping for retirement.

Millennials are, by far, the largest generation in the US workforce.

In 2020, Millennials made up 35% of the global workforce with Gen Z making up 24%. That adds up to more than half the entire workforce population. (Generation Z are those born 1997 or after).

Those two generations will make up 63.8% of the labor force in 2025. By 2030, they will be about 75%.

Boomers, AARP tells us, are retiring at the rate of 10,000 each day across the USA.

Unlike their more conspiracy-minded elders, most Millennials believe that government can be, even should be, a powerful force for good.

Millennials like to work – but not under anything resembling the workplace of previous generations.

The standard 9-5, Monday through Friday work schedule is anathema to them.

Working remotely, from home or on the road, or anytime, anywhere is their preferred schedule.

Flexibility is king.

Established career ladders, corporate systems and traditional hierarchies make that generation crazy.

Flexibility in food is also a high priority. About 25% of Millenials describe themselves as being vegan or vegetarian.

What were once “ethnic” foods have become dietary staples for most Millennials.

Must love devices

To no one’s surprise, Millennials love their devices.

The Pew Research Center reports that 73 percent of online Millennials say that the internet has had a net positive impact on society—the highest percentage of any age group polled.

The same report found that (only) 97 percent of Millennials use the internet, and almost a third of them exclusively use it on their phones.

And if you see Millenials in their native habitat, you will almost certainly see them with a phone in hand.

25 percent of Millennials report looking at their phone more than 100 times a day, according to one international survey of 2600 people, and 50 percent spend at least three hours a day on their phones.

They expect to be connected anywhere, at any time.

The future is Asian

China is home to 351 million Millennials (25 percent of the country’s population, compared to 22 percent in the U.S.). That’s more than the entire US population – of all ages. The entire population of the USA, as of mid-October of 2021, is about 333 million.

Generation Z

Generation Z outnumbered Millennials worldwide as of late 2019, edging up to around 32 percent of the world population compared to Millennials’s 31.5 percent.


The children of Millennials, appropriately enough for a generation immersed entirely in the 21st Century, are called The Alpha Generation.

Generation Alpha kids will be more racially and ethnically diverse than their parents – or grandparents.

Members of Generation Alpha will also be more likely to go to college, more likely to grow up in a single-parent (or nontraditional) household and more likely to be surrounded by college-educated adults.

Generation Alpha kids will certainly be the most technologically literate generation to ever inhabit the planet.

In the United States, white people represent a shrinking share of the nation’s population.

In 2010, the first year that Generation Alphas were born, 51% of kids ages 0 to 4 were white. By 2018, barely 49% of kids in this same age range were white. The trend is obvious.

Generation Alpha entered the world the same year that Apple launched its iPad, Instagram made its debut and the American Dialect Society crowned “app” as its word of the year.

Surrounded by technology from (or even before) birth, this group views digital tools as omnipresent — not just an accessory. For better or worse, digital is their “normal”.

And no traditional institution, from government to religion to education or careers to shopping will be what we, the members of previous generations, always thought it would be.

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.

Who knows what the rest of the generational “letters” will look like?