|By Alexis Wilkinson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</td>|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The rise of the boomers, a group forged into adulthood during the social and political upheaval of the 1960s and '70s, has been chronicled and teased apart since their conceptions. Boomers collectively were named TIME's "Man of the Year" in 1966. They were the first generation to have television, and, in many ways, the first to be marketed to as a distinct cohort, a collection of citizens with a cultural identity notably different from their parents. They have the highest voter participation rate of any group of Americans and currently hold the most powerful positions in both the Democratic and Republican parties.
But, as the Bob Dylan song goes, "The times, they are a-changin'."
Today, a member of the most represented age in
Millennials by the numbers
"I've graduated from college. I got my associate's and now I'm in debt because of it. And that's it," says
"I work with a girl who has
By the numbers,
Not that it hasn't already. Thanks to ample new technology that this group is most adept at using, the traditional barriers of entry to many lucrative industries have crumbled, and Millennials have begun to rise to the top of fields where boomers formerly reigned. There are more CEOs under 40 than ever before thanks to the proliferation of startups.
In entertainment, the impact that tech-savvy Millennials have had is even more striking. Myspace and YouTube essentially created the careers of artists such as
But it is not just technology that can be credited for the Millennials' meteoric rise. There is something distinct about their attitudes as well. According to the
Although there is little that has crystallized the Millennial identity like the former World Wars or the civil rights movement that shaped earlier generations, all agree about the importance of technology to this group. Nearly one in four Millennials say technology is what makes their generation unique, more than double the percentage of Generation Xers (those born between the early 1960s to early 1980s) who say so, according to the
"I don't need to watch the news. I have Facebook and Twitter," says
"When you didn't have social networks, you really didn't have this direct visibility into one another's lives … Now you have this platform where you have instant access and visibility into anyone's lives at literally the touch of a fingertip. And I don't know if it makes everyone more connected, but it gives you access that didn't really exist before."
The Web was a fact of life from birth for most of this group, unlike its slow infiltration into the lives of Generation Xers and the way television gradually became part of boomers' leisure time. By the time Millennials hit their teenage years, they had been through
All in all, the tendency to hold a mirror up to the boomers has perhaps led society to paint the Millennials with much too broad a brush, relying on a cultural oversimplification about 30 years wide.
Researchers for the Millennial Segmentation Study at
"Eighteen to 34 is a huge segment of the population. You can't lump them all together,"
Technology as a defining factor has its limits. According to the study's preliminary findings, when it comes to those ages 18-22 in comparison to ages 30-34, there are definite differences, but it's not in "how digital they are."
"It's hard to compare people in their 20s to people in their 60s. You're going to find differences in actions vs. intent."
At the intersection of yet another Millennial contradiction lies the new-found popularity of relatively smaller urban environments like
The U.S. Census does not break down the number of people by specific ages like its national figures, but overall
"I love the city. I love the atmosphere, the overall direction and vibe that you get here. If you would've asked me five years ago where I'm going to end up after college, I would've never guessed
"I just want to be a part of that. I just want to experience that … It's kind of this perfect storm right now. Everyone's working together to make this city the best that it can be."
"This is a good-sized city for me because it's not like
Politics and looking forward
As this cohort grows up, their politics will become the nation's collective politics as they begin to make their voices heard and take spots in the upper levels of government. Do their relatively liberal politics and tolerant attitudes mean less partisan politics in the future or more?
Overall, there is a mistrust of both Democratic and Republican parties that has led to a drastic narrowing in the lead Democrats have historically had with this age group.
"I'm very opinionated as far as my disdain for both parties," says 23-year-old
Despite their fatigue with politics as usual, they see themselves as more than capable of changing the status quo, one day at a time, one click at a time.
"We change more things," says
"I really wish there were more Millennials running stuff," says
When asked to put themselves in the boomers' place, these young 'Burghers have trouble projecting more than their whole lifetime ahead, but still have some clear ideas about what they will have achieved.
"At age 50, at that stage in life, I want to be doing something I care about, making an impact on the world and hopefully other individuals," says
"What's important is that I'm happy with the majority of the decisions I've made … that I led a good life and had an impact."
"By the time I'm 50, it will have happened. I know it. I know it. And if it hasn't, I'll aim for 80 … I've just got to try."
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