Free Minds & Free Markets

5 Myths About Millennials

cmichel67/Flickrcmichel67/FlickrMillennials get a bad rap, which isn't exactly surprising—nobody likes a youthful generation while they're youthful. If you're lucky, like Gen X, people stop paying attention to you when the next whippersnappers come along. If you're like the boomers—and millennials look a lot more like the boomers, both in terms of size and outlook, than Gen X—people will keep right on maligning you through AARP eligibility. But boomers have, over time, shed some of the most outrageous or unfair of the stereotypes assigned to them, and hopefully millennials will grow out of their's as well. In the service of helping that along, allow me to attempt deconstruction of several prominent millennial myths. 

Myth #1: Millennials are young

Some are—with the outer bounds of millennial birthdom stretching as late as 2000 by some accounts, the youngest millennials are currently in their early teens. But the oldest of us were born in the early 1980s (some even say late '70s), placing us firmly in our early 30s these days. Millennials are getting married and having babies and running companies and all kinds of crazy stuff by now, despite the media portrayal of millennials as pretty much perpetually college-age. By 2020, Gen Y (as millennials are alternately known) will account for some 46 percent of the U.S. workforce

Myth #2: Millennials are all living in their parents' basements

Much has been made over data seeming to show that adult millennials are living with their parents in record numbers. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, more than half of adults under 25 are living at home. But as Derek Thompon at The Atlantic recently pointed out, the census statistics count college students who live in campus dorms or apartments as living "at home." Because young people are attending school in record numbers, this skews the results comparative to previous generations and makes it appear like many more millennials are in dire straights than actually are. When you remove college students from the equation, the share of 18- to-24-year-olds living at home has been steadily declining since 1986. 

Myth #3: Young millennials are doing significantly worse than older millennials

A new poll from Zogby Analytics looked at differences between older millennials, which Zogby defined as those born in 1979-1989, and the younger millennials born 1990-1996. Lauren Alix Brown recently summarized some of these findings at Quartz: "The older cohort was more apt to have a college degree, consider their current job a career, and less likely to have lost a job in the past 12 months." But while this may be perfectly true, it doesn't really mean much of anything. Older millennials in this study are currently 25- to 35-years-old, while the younger cohort is 18- to 24. Of course the former are going to be more likely to have finished college and landed in a job they consider career potential. 

Myth #4: Millennials want to ban abortion

Those who want to make abortion illegal in all circumstances often assert that they have the younger generation on their side—perhaps even that millennials are "more pro-life" than either boomers or seniors. tackled that one earlier this year and found it patently "false." In a 2013 study from the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, only 40 percent of millennials called themselves "pro-life," compared to 45 percent of Gen X, 47 percent of boomers, and 53 percent of seniors. 

A study this year from the Public Religion Research Institute did find that 65 percent of millennials said the term pro-life describes them "at least somewhat well"—but 74 percent of this same group said the same thing about "pro-choice". It seems many millennials simply don't feel comfortable pinning themselves neatly within these old labels. In the same study, 52 percent of millennials said they personally believe abortion is "morally wrong," compared to 36 percent that said it was "morally acceptable." Yet 55 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to only 41 percent that believe it should be illegal in all or most cases. 

Myth #5: Millennials are anti-capitalist

Perhaps Occupy Wall Street cemented this myth in Americans' minds. But if anything, it's more accurate to say that millenials are anti-corporatist. They distrust the collusion of Big Business and Big Government. But as I explore in Reason's October issueeven countercultural millennials aren't anti-money, anti-profit, or anti-entrepreneurship in the way that previous youth movements have been. "Ultimately, money is power, and if you have more power you can use that power for good things," one millennial entrepreneur told me. "Profit isn’t seen as such an evil thing anymore," said another. "It’s more about how that profit is used."

2009 poll from the Center for American Progress found nearly equal numbers of millennials agreed that "the free market is still the best way to organize our economy" (39 percent) as those who said "our current economic problems show what happens when you rely too much on the market and reduce regulations on corporations" (42 percent). In the 2014 Reason-Rupe poll of millennials, 64 percent said they supported a free-market economy over a government-managed one, and 55 percent said they have entrepreneurial ambitions. 

Photo Credit: Alex Torres/Flickr

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  • Leo||

    FWIW, I was born in 1982 and have never identified with "millennials". I think there is a huge difference between people born in the early 80s vs those born in the late 80s, and would put the start of the "millennial" generation at around 1985.

    That said I certainly never identified with "Generation X" either, those were always older people. Basically there needs to be an in-between generation (like the "Generation Jones" in between the boomers and Gen X) for people born between 78-84 or so. I could push the lower bound up a bit if someone born in 79 really wants to be Gen X, but I'd definitely draw the line at 1980.

  • chmercier||

    Exactly. I was born in 1983. Where do we fit? Too young to get the whole Nirvana thing at the time, but old enough to go "Limp Bizkit, for real?"

    Still, I did associate Gen-X in the early '90s as people in their 20s, and at the youngest in their late teens. I'd say 1980 at the latest. But I've also seen a couple things where they end Gen-X at 1984 recently. Maybe it's because we bought a flannel in 1994?

  • ||

    Exactly. I was born in 1983.

    I think much of the generational labelling is gross stereotyping. A running process of Texas Sharpshooter fallacies.

    I was born in 1979 at the age of 19. By the time I was driving, I was in my mid 30s. I was jaded by angsty rock 'n roll well before Cobain killed himself. I would probably be a hipster now if I weren't so close to retirement age.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I was born in 1979 at the age of 19.


    I'm not entirely clear on what you meant to say here.

  • ||

    His poor poor mother

  • Rich||

    Especially since she kicked him out of the house at 18.

  • Kure'i||

    So actually, he was right on time getting his license in his mid-30s.

  • ||

    I'm not entirely clear on what you meant to say here.

    Were you born yesterday?

    I know plenty of people born in the late 70s/early 80s who can't be more than 21-22 yrs. old. 25 at the most.

  • Reveillon||

    "What's on your mind?"
    "My hat."

  • Agile Cyborg||

    My question is... we know how old mad.casual was when he was born- but how old were you when you were born?

  • JWatts||

    Meh, generational labels are broad and encompass a very large group and there are always large differences.

    Generally speaking,
    1946-1965 Baby Boomers
    1966-1985 Gen X's
    1986-2005 Millenials

    It's almost certainly true that someone born in 1985 has more in common with someone born in 1986 than a fellow Gen Xer born in 1966, but the labels are just broad categorizations. They aren't meant to be exact comparisons.

  • ||

    They aren't meant to be exact comparisons.

    I'd say they're broad to the point of meaninglessness.

    Your Gen X puts late 60s radical socialist eco-warrior hippies in the same basket as mid-80s type A Wall Street warrior types; even though those groups share little in common and are only loosely associated with Gen X anyway.

    The moniker 'Gen X' exists because we/they couldn't find a label or cohesive theme to label the generation with. But we can't let us/them go unnamed/labelled can we?


    Generation XBOX?

  • Ted S.||

    Millennials are young. I'm older than the millennials, and I'm not old.

  • Rich||

    with the outer bounds of millennial birthdom stretching as late as 2000 by some accounts, the youngest millennials are currently in their early teens. But the oldest of us were born in the early 1980s (some even say late '70s), placing us firmly in our early 30s these days.

    So, early teens to early 30s. Yeah, that's a coherent cohort.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Myth #6: Millenials can be spoken about as a monolithic bloc.

    As with any arbitrary time-slice of the population, you're going to get a lot of variance based upon more localized factors than when they were whelped. So why do you persist in these pointless generalizations?

  • Another David||

    Myth #7: Somebody somewhere wants to keep reading this series of articles.

  • Drake||

    Myth #8: I care, even a little, about any Millennial I'm not related to.

  • Rich||

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Strangely worded myth, brah.

  • Kure'i||

    I don't know if anyone wants to keep reading them, but someone wants to keep writing them. Like the Boomers, are the Millenials also endlessly navel gazing?

  • UCrawford||

    God, I hope not.

    Apparently Reason is trying to form some strategy here to encourage youth voters to libertarianism, like the Democrats did with young voters in the 1990s.

    I don't see this working too well, since a) the best advertisement for libertarianism is the failure of government, and most people seem to learn the wrong lessons from that, b) libertarians are generally not "joiners" anyway, and c) the frequency with which they're beating this dead horse, if anything, makes libertarianism seem shallow and boring.

  • ||

    If you're lucky, like Gen X, people stop paying attention to you when the next whippersnappers come along.

    Most attention we got was negative, whereas the youngsters are getting a lot of positive attention. For example, nowadays I'm expected to care how engaged and satisfied junior staff members are - something which never worried my bosses when I was that age, because there was a recession and we were a dime a dozen. We've gone from being despised by Boomers to being despised by Gen Y too. Happy happy joy joy

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I have to say, they're more attractive than you lot.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    To be fair I think even Gen Xers despise Gen Xers, we were awful, awful people when we were younger and that sort of thing leaves a mark. I blame Seattle. All that whining. And flannel. On the other hand at least the hip-hop was pretty good.

  • ||

    We've stopped using bongwater as perfume and started washing!

  • JWatts||

    "I have to say, they're more attractive than you lot."

    Eh, maybe. The defining characteristic at my company (an engineering firm) is that it's hard to get Millenials to agree to work as many hours as GenX'ers.

    My company is lowering the hours required per week for junior engineers. Which I empathize with. On the other hand, as a group, they won't make as much money and they won't be as skilled without working the hours.

    There's always a certain amount of overhead every week, time sheets, safety training, holidays, vacation, etc. So when you add it all up, every engineer probably looses 10 hours per week to the overhead. If engineer A works 45 hours per week (close to my average when I was a junior) and engineer B works 40 hours per week (the new benchmark), then after subtracting the overhead, your left with 35 vs 30 hours of billable engineering work.

    All else being the same, then the older engineer is going to have roughly 15% more time every week becoming experienced and skilled and will have roughly 15% more billable hours (and hence better pay).

    Furthermore, it's been my experience that the numbers aren't exactly linear. There's a substantial difference in the quality of a guy who routinely works 45+ hours per week hours vs a guy working 40 hours per week.

  • Malkavian||

    So... What is the appropriate age to start telling people to get off my lawn?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Whenever you have a lawn and there are people you didn't invite on it.

  • Swiss Servator, Bern baby Bern||

    "Fire a shotgun through the door!"


  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    "Profit isn’t seen as such an evil thing anymore," said another. "It’s more about how that profit is used."

    So less socialist, more fascist?

  • Beowulf||

    dire straights?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I'm old enough to remember when Millennial Monthly was called Reason.

  • Swiss Servator, Bern baby Bern||

    They must not have polled Millenials much back then!

  • Reveillon||

    During the Age of Reason?

  • ||

    But boomers have, over time, shed some of the most outrageous or unfair of the stereotypes assigned to them

    Citation needed.

    /Never one to pass up taking a shot at "The Leastest Generation".

  • Rich||

    Oh, come on, Bobarian. The boomers are arguably greater than the generation born around 1700.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    And the Millenial Myths tug-of-war continues, Lizzy Baby. Who has the best damn myths? Only time shall tell...

  • userve32||

    These guys dont have a clue as to what is going on.

  • Brendan||

    What's with Reason's obsession with "millenials"

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    Our print issue this month was the millennial issue. The intense millennial focus will pass ...

  • Sam Haysom||

    But your obsession with abortion on demand isn't going anywhere right? Because that would a shame. Most people hide their bloodthirstiness you own it.

  • UCrawford||

    Glad to hear it.

  • Loki||

    Myth #6: That anyone other than millenials themselves and Reason magazine gives a shit about millenials.

  • Reveillon||


  • Joao||

    And yet, when they go to vote, it will be for Commie Liz Warren for President.

  • Timon 19||

    In my experience with this generation in the workforce (I was born in '78, but I identify WAY more with X than Y), they may be anti-authoritarian on the surface, but dig a bit deeper and they REALLY loves them some statism.

    They are some of the most conformist set of young people I've ever seen in many ways.

  • LessIsMore||

    "they may be anti-authoritarian on the surface, but dig a bit deeper and they REALLY loves them some statism."

    That describes every generation, unfortunately.

  • blackjack||

    Okay, how come you have separate stats for boomers and seniors. I don't know when gen X starts, but my parents were boomers, and I'm 48.

  • Katie Hooks||


  • LessIsMore||

    I'm also going to take issue with the birth years of Millenials (it does get capitalized, right?) - 1979/1980 is Gen X, period.

    Millenials IMO are high school seniors and college-age now, and into early thirties perhaps - but people who are 20 years apart in age will never be part of the same "generation".

  • jmomls||

    *If you're like the boomers—and millennials look a lot more like the boomers, both in terms of size and outlook, than Gen X—people will keep right on maligning you through AARP eligibility*

    It's not the size and outlook of the generation that grates, it's the CONSTANT NAVEL-GAZING AND CULTURAL HEGEMONY.

    For anyone unlucky enough to have been born into Gen X, it's been one long highlight reel stuck in a continuous loop: HOWDYDOODY JFKSHOT THEBEATLESONSULLIVAN VIETNAM MOONLANDING WOODSTOCK DISCO PETROCK LEISURESUITS, over and over and over and over. And the Boomers act like every stage they went through, they were the first people to do so. You can blame Madison Avenue for shovelling this crap onto plates, but the Boomers keep eating it up and expecting everyone else to enjoy the taste, as well.


    My personal funny 'Millenials'-perception story.

    So, I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1999-2000, knowing that it was a 'cool' neighborhood, but unaware of the looming tidal wave of hipsters that were about to be unleashed on the place.

    My landlord was a Russian guy (in a community largely polish). I was the first 'non-polish resident' of the building. We got along well = he liked that I worse suits, was originally from Bay Ridge, and talked his kind of talk. (*'working class mobster')

    About 6 years later, we're chatting and both note the enormous influx of young white hipsters swamping the neighborhood. It was overwhelming. Thousands of tatooed, pipe-cleaner-armed, single-gear bike-riding beardos became the staple persona on the street.

    He's clearly agitated about them. He asks me, "Do they bother you?" I'm like, "nah, i mean, in bars they're a little annoying, but mostly no." He's shaking his head. Goes, "I'm lucky i got you first, i don't know what I'd do with these people".... theres an awkward silence, then he finally clarifies, "...are they really ALL Homosexuals?"

    I laughed so hard. Then I wiped my eyes, put a hand on his shoulder in commiseration, and said, "Yes. All of them."

  • Robert||

    Myth #1: Millennials are young

    Of all the suck-all discussion, you're arguing over how people use a word?!! Or are you saying people can't do math?

  • ||

    They were young before it was cool.

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