What's ahead for Generation Y?

February 5, 2006

Here are some predictions that William Strauss and Neil Howe made in the book “Millennials Rising” in 2000:

  • Between 2007 and 2012, Millennials will break out as a major national phenomenon…Whatever institutions the first Millennials newly occupy—from college to pop culture, from armed forces to union halls and voting booths—will receive the same media glare, parental obsession and political intrusion that high schools felt in the late 1990s.
  • Pop music will become more melodic and singable. Gen-X genres such as new wave, alt-rock and rap will still be around, but, by degrees, these styles will be tamed and domesticated to suit the new youth taste.
  • More than ever, college, and entry-level jobs will act as societal sorting mechanisms, through which young adults will learn where they stand in relation to their peers. Grades, honor codes, Internet behavior and cheating on exams will all become major issues.
  • Class (and money) will rise above gender or race as a flashpoint for student political argument. Dating across racial and ethnic lines will be more common, while dating across class lines will become less so.
  • To reduce the risk of disease and infertility and to conform to new peer social standards, Millennials will begin to reverse the trend toward later marriage and childbirth.
  • Young workers will demand that employers adjust to those who wish to build careers and families at the same time and to lead lower-stress lives than their parents did. Older employees will admire their skills, confidence and team spirit but will question their creativity and toughness.
  • In politics, young voters will emerge as a new powerhouse, surprising most older people with their activism and determination.
  • Where the boomer upheaval focused on issues of self, culture and morals, the Millennial upheaval will focus on community, politics and deeds. They will rebel against the culture by cleaning it up, rebel against political cynicism by touting trust and rebel against individualism by stressing teamwork.

Their Frame of Reference

Each year, Beloit College in Beloit, Wisc., releases its “Mindset List,” which offers a world view of entering college students. Here are some of the items on the list for the Class of 2009—members of Generation Y who were born in 1987.

  • Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason and Lee Marvin have always been dead.
  • They don’t remember when “cut and paste” involved scissors.
  • Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
  • With little need to practice, most of them do not know how to tie a tie.
  • Pay-Per-View television has always been an option.
  • They never had the fun of being thrown into the back of a station wagon with six others.
  • Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.
  • They are more familiar with Greg Gumbel than with Bryant Gumbel.
  • Al-Qaeda has always existed with Osama bin Laden at its head.
  • They learned to count with Lotus 1-2-3.
  • Car stereos have always rivaled home component systems.
  • Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker have never preached on television.
  • Voice mail has always been available.
  • “Whatever” is not part of a question but an expression of sullen rebuke.
  • The federal budget has always been more than a trillion dollars.
  • They might have fallen asleep playing with their Gameboys in the crib.
  • For daily caffeine emergencies, Starbucks has always been around the corner.
  • Michael Jackson has always been bad, and greed has always been good.
  • The Starship Enterprise has always looked dated.
  • It has always been possible to walk from England to mainland Europe on dry land.
  • They have grown up in a single superpower world.
  • They missed the oat bran diet craze.
  • American Motors has never existed.
  • Scientists have always been able to see supernovas.
  • Les Miserables has always been on stage.
  • “Baby M” may be a classmate, and contracts with surrogate mothers have always been legal.
  • They do not remember “a kinder and gentler nation.”
  • They never saw the shuttle Challenger fly.
  • Airports have always had upscale shops and restaurants.
  • Black Americans have always been known as African-Americans.
  • They never saw a Howard Johnson’s with 28 ice cream flavors.
  • Jimmy Carter has always been an elder statesman.
  • Miss Piggy and Kermit have always dwelt in Disneyland.
  • America’s Funniest Home Videos has always been on television.
  • Their nervous new parents heard C. Everett Koop proclaim nicotine as addictive as heroin.
  • Lever has always been looking for 2,000 parts to clean.
  • They have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV.

Connections