Millennials are harder on themselves than any other generation. (Photo: Getty Images)
“Millennial” has become a dirty word, as older generations characterize the 18-34-year-olds as self-centered and lazy. So it’s not shocking that only 40 percent of Millennials surveyed in a new report by the Pew Research Center would consider themselves part of the millennial generation, fewer than almost any other group.
The Pew Report surveyed a “nationally representative sample” of 3,147 American adults, ages 18 to 87. The report highlights the differences between each generation, offering a fascinating view of how members of each generation feels about their peers, and other generations.
Baby Boomers are the most likely to identify with their label — 79 percent of those surveyed consider themselves to be part of the generation. Members of the Silent generation — or those ages 70 to 87 — are least likely to identify with their label at 18 percent.
(The Silent generation is named as such because there are so few of them; birthrates were down in the 1930s and early 40s due to the Great Depression and World War II).
Members of the Millennial generation are also more likely than any other generation to be self-critical, hesitant to label themselves as moral, compassionate and patriotic, the survey found. Only 36 percent of Millennials would consider themselves hard-working, compared to 83 percent of the Silent generation.
Millennials are more likely to describe themselves negatively than any other generation — 59 percent of Millennials surveyed would call their generation “self-absorbed,” compared with only 7 percent of Silents and 20 percent of Baby Boomers. Each following generation is less critical, with Silents being the most likely to view themselves positively for each category.
As the Pew report points out, these findings may say more about age and life stage than generation — as people age, they’re more likely to see themselves favorably. But there are other factors at play here — the Millennial generation could just as easily be called the comparison generation. Previous generations could compare their achievements to their friends, family, and colleagues — Millennials compare themselves to anyone with Internet access and an Instagram account.
And millennials are critiqued from every angle — they’re judged on TV, online, in Op-Eds and internet memes alike. In their youth, each generation is judged — often snarkily — by their elders. The Baby Boomers and Gen X certainly were. But today’s ever-present technology puts Millennials under a more intense microscope than any preceding generation.
Those critiques may be what causes Millennials to rate themselves so low in positive characteristics, despite evidence otherwise. “Young adults are more likely than older people to say there is strong evidence of climate change and to prioritize the development of alternative energy over expanding the production of fossil fuels,” the report explains. “Yet Millennials (40 percent) and Gen-Xers (37 percent) are no more likely than Boomers (41 percent) or Silents (40 percent) to describe the people in their generation as environmentally conscious.”
Millennials are slow to applaud themselves for their tolerance as well, the survey found. “While Millennials are more accepting of homosexuality, interracial marriage and hold more positive views of immigrants, about the same share of Millennials (33 percent) as those in older age cohorts consider the people in their generation tolerant,” the report states.
So buck up, Millennials, and wear that label with pride. If you’re cool enough to have recruited Kanye to your ranks, you must be doing something right.