'Pro-Government' Millennials Take Government Jobs, Discover They Suck, Move to the Private Sector


A few years ago, the buzz was about "how the millennial generation is the most pro-government generation and what this means for our future" as the Center for American Progress put it in 2010. What it meant is that a bunch of them took federal jobs hoping to work where the action is, and discovered that laboring for Leviathan kind of sucks. Now they're streaming out of federal employment, a little wiser for the experience.

According to the Washington Post's Lisa Rein:

Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government "cool again," federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many millennials are heading for the door.

The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show.

By comparison, about a quarter of the country's labor force is under 30. The article adds that "employees under 30 accounted for nearly 9 percent of those who left the government in 2013, a significant figure given their tiny presence in the workforce."

The reasons for the exodus include a bureaucratic and byzantine hiring process that moves at glacial speeds, government shutdowns and limited opportunities once hired, and the bureaucratic internal culture.

"I had fantastic mentors and teachers in government. But there was a big question mark about what opportunities would be available for me," says Meghan Gleason, 29, who left the National Institutes of Health to take a consulting job at KPMG.

This squares with the results of a recent Office of Personnel Management survey, which found millennials rather less happy with their government gigs than federal employees from older generations, though they tend to like their immediate supervisors.


New-found disillusionment with the reality of government extends beyond those who have actually worked in the belly of the beast. In 2009, polling by the Pew Research Center found that only 42 percent of millennials thought government was "usually inefficient and wasteful." Six in 10 Americans over 30 held that low view of the beast. But when Reason-Rupe repeated the question earlier this year, 66 percent of millennials thought government was "usually inefficient and wasteful."

Reality is revelatory. And that "most pro-government generation" is growing, as we all do, wiser with hard-earned experience.