The Times West Virginian

Opinion

March 16, 2014

What should Millennial generation value more?

Your generation is usually defined by a phrase.

1900-1924 - G.I. Generation, so named because a great deal of those born between these years served in the Armed Forces or supported them while at home.

1925-1945 - Silent Generation, and we can’t seem to find a reason for the “silent” part, considering that many of the greatest civil rights leaders of the 20th century were born during these years. It might have something to do with how small the generation was — economic insecurity led to fewer births in this time span.

1946-1964 - Baby Boomers, because everyone was so relieved to see the end of the World War II and enjoyed new economic prosperity that they decided to settle down, get married and have children.

1965-1979 - Generation X, coined from the book title from author Douglas Coupland about a group of people who didn’t want to be defined by class, status or money. Something about the characters in the book rang true with the media about that generation, leading them to tie the two together forever.

1980-2000 - Millennials or Generation Y. The “Y” is probably because it comes after “X” in the alphabet, but many suggest that this generation is challenging the traditions and values held by generations before and asking that age-old question “why?” about everything.

And there’s a pretty big difference between the Millennials and the generations before. A recent Pew Research Center study showed just how stark of a contrast there was between generations.

For example, Millennials are just not as likely to get married. Only about one-fourth, or 26 percent, are married. Compare that to other generations when they were the same age: Generation X, 36 percent; Baby Boomers, 48 percent; Silent Generation, 65 percent.

“Most unmarried Millennials (69 percent) say they would like to marry, but many, especially those with lower levels of income and education, lack what they deem to be a necessary prerequisite — a solid economic foundation,” the Pew Center reports.

They are also a lot more likely to have a child out of wedlock, and lead all generations in that statistic. Two years ago, 47 percent of children were born to unmarried Millennial women. That’s a big shift, considering that at about the same age within the same generation, Gen Xers had about 35 percent of births outside of marriage.

Millennials aren’t very religious, either. Or rather, they don’t necessarily identify with a particular religion.

“This generation’s religious views and behaviors are quite different from older age groups,” the Pew Center reports. “Not only are they less likely than older generations to be affiliated with any religion, they are also less likely to say they believe in God.”

About 86 percent say they believe in God, but only 58 percent say they are certain God exists.

When it comes to politics, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Millennials are more liberal than previous generations. They are more likely to support the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage and support activism.

When it comes to working, well that’s a tough one because times have been tough for the Millennials. A high school degree isn’t cutting it anymore, and an advanced degree puts them at an economic disadvantage.

“Educational attainment is highly correlated with economic success, even more so for this generation than previous ones,” the Pew Report reads. “In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, young adults today who do not advance beyond high school have been paying a much stiffer penalty — in terms of low wages and high unemployment — than their counterparts did one and two generations ago.”

But, that college degree comes at a very high cost — two-thirds have a college debt that averages $27,000. Two decades ago, only half carried such debt, which averaged at $15,000. And what’s worse is that many of the generation were entering the workforce into white-collared jobs when the economy tanked in 2007. Last ones in, first ones laid off. Unemployment is high.

So with such a stark difference between this generation and the ones before, we decided to ask our readers what they wished the Millennials would value more.

We took the question to our interactive poll question, which can be found each week at www.timeswv.com. Last week, we asked, “A recent poll shows vast differences between the Millennial generation and those before it. What do you wish this generation would value more?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• Politics — 0 percent

• Religion — 26.19 percent

• Family — 29.76 percent

• A hard day’s work — 44.05 percent

Maybe when they get a bit older.

This week, let’s talk about the “5 Second Rule” about dropped food. A new university study suggests that, generally, food dropped on the floor is mostly free of harmful bacteria within a five-second span. So, do you follow the rule?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV

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