Probably no generation has received as much fanfare as the GI Generation, or Greatest Generation. Born before 1925, they saved the world from Hitler in World War II. With a strong sense of team play, they promoted peer solidarity through unions (whose U.S. membership peaked in 1948) and new government social programs.
They were followed by the ultra-conformist Silent Generation (born 1925 to 1942), who gave us solid, though gray "organization men." The Silents went home to manicured suburbs that seemed to stifle egos but promoted stable, long-term careers and friendly reliability.
The Silents gave rise to the boisterous individualism of Baby Boomers (1943-1960), named for the spike in birth rates that began after World War II. Focused on inner vision, Boomers questioned authority, trusted no one over 30, and crowded into "culture careers," such as teaching and journalism. They're proud of their work ethic and need to infuse careers with mission and meaning.
Generation X (1961-'81) survived rampant divorce, latch-key childhoods, devil-child movies and the sexual minefield of AIDS. Criticized as slackers who thought "Reality Bites," they were hardened by grunge and hip-hop to become workplace "free agents" who embraced risks. They excelled as entrepreneurs.
Which brings us to the Millennials, who were born as abortion and divorce rates ebbed, and grew up with attachment parenting and politicians who defined issues in terms of their effects on children. With "helicopter moms" hovering over them, they were sheltered and risk-averse. (Under Millennials, 14 of the CDC's 15 youth-risk indicators — including sexual activity, drug use and attempted suicide — have declined. Only obesity has increased.)
Called Generation Y and Echo Boomers, the labels didn't quite work for Howe. He coined the term "Millennial" for those who came of age at the time of a rare event, the turning of a millennium.
Millennials are defined, he says, by seven core traits: special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured and achieving.
More broadly, Pew notes they are the first "always-connected" generation, far more likely to create a profile on a social-networking site (75 percent) than to get tattooed (40 percent). (Check out Pew's "How Millennial Are You?" quiz at http://pewresearch.org/millennials/quiz/.)
Think about pop culture of the 1960s and '70s, says Neil Howe, a historian, demographer and author of six books about Millennials. Children were evil in movies such as "Rosemary's Baby," "The Exorcist" and "The Omen." The frontiers of science focused on contraception. Birth rates plummeted.
Then came the soft-focus dawn of the "era of worthy children." Next thing you know, movies were about "Three Men and a Baby." The percentage of fathers present at the birth of their children climbed from 20 percent in the late 1970s to 85 percent today. Every kid got a trophy. Some planned their resumes, as Howe says, before they got their braces off.
Then the recession laid waste to best-laid plans. More than a third of 18-to-29-year-olds are now unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — up significantly from a decade ago.
Ushered in with the first Baby on Board signs in the early 1980s, Millennials were cocooned, coddled and chauffeured by over-protective parents, correcting for the hyper-individualist, anti-child times they grew up in.
Millennials grew up watching "Barney and Friends" and basking in the electronic group hugs of social networking. They're very team-oriented. It's no surprise, Domke says, to see James "getting his band together" in the quest to win a championship. (Remember, Millennials launched the Spice Girls, whose debut single bounced to the refrain "If you wanna be my lover, you gottta get with my friends.")
Underestimate them at your peril, says Howe, who has advised organizations from Nike and Ford to the U.S. Army and Harvard University. They are the biggest, most tech-savvy and likely to be the most-educated generation in American history.Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com