Out of the Box; Why Aren’t They Worried?

September 9, 2002 | By Justin Marciniak

Did Sept. 11 really change everything? Some researchers argue that it has had surprisingly little impact on one of the most impressionable consumer segments: young adults.

In fact, Sept. 11’s most significant impact on Millennials (aka Generation Y)—those born in or after 1982 and members of the high-school class of 2000 or later—could be its role in solidifying the cohort’s core traits, which include having a civic purpose, possessing grand ambitions and feeling optimistic about the future. According to William Strauss, co-author of Millennials Rising, The Next Great Generation (Vintage Books) major public events such as the terrorist attacks tend to crystallize a generation’s developing characteristics rather than direct them down a different path.

When the Twin Towers fell, the adult world rocked, but a prior event foreshadowed this violence for Millennials, thus molding them before Sept. 11 had a chance to do so. “The Millennials had a Sept. 11 before the rest of us, and it was called Columbine,” Strauss said.

The 1999 school shooting had a major impact on young peoples’ day-to-day lives, assert Strauss and co-author Neil Howe. While they were already the most watched-over generation of children, the Millennials endured anxiety over post-Columbine safety and threats to their carefully constructed worlds. Schools sacrificed freedoms and creativity for the sake of security just as Americans have watched homeland security trample their civil liberties.

“We’ve stayed on that trajectory since then in schools, and as a consequence, I don’t think Millennials were as affected by Sept. 11 as other generations,” Strauss said.