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Most Millennials Resist the ‘Millennial’ Label

Millennials will soon become the nation’s largest living generation. They already have surpassed Generation X to make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce. Despite the size and influence of the Millennial generation, however, most of those in this age cohort do not identify with the term “Millennial,” according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center. Just 40% of adults ages 18 to 34 consider themselves part of the “Millennial generation,” while another 33% – mostly older Millennials – consider themselves part of the next older cohort, Generation X.

The survey, conducted March 10-April 6 among 3,147 adults who are part of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel, finds generational identity is strongest among the Boomers: 79% of those 51 to 69 consider themselves part of the “Baby Boom generation.” Among those 35 to 50 (the age range for Generation X), 58% consider themselves part of “Generation X.” 

The oldest cohort of Americans is by far the least likely to embrace a generational label. Just 18% of those ages 70 to 87 (the age range of the Silent Generation) actually see themselves as part of the “Silent Generation.” Far more Silents consider themselves part of adjoining generations, either Boomers (34%) or the Greatest Generation (also 34%).   

The survey finds that some generational names – particularly Boomers – are more widely recognized than others. Among all respondents, fully 89% say they have heard of the Baby Boom generation, while 71% have heard of Gen X. A majority (56%) has heard of the Millennial generation, but just 15% of all respondents (including only 27% of Silents) have heard of the Silent Generation.

The survey also asked respondents if 18 descriptions – a mix of positive, negative, and neutral terms – applied to the people of their generation. Silents are far more likely than people in younger age cohorts to view their own generation in a positive light. Large majorities of Silents say the people of their generation are hard-working (83%), responsible (78%), patriotic (73%), self-reliant (65%), moral (64%), willing to sacrifice (61%) and compassionate (60%). 

Boomers also tend to have favorable impressions of their generation, though in most cases they are not as positive as Silents. By contrast, Gen Xers and Millennials are far more skeptical in assessing the strengths of their generations. And Millennials, in particular, stand out in their willingness to ascribe negative stereotypes to their own generation: 59% say the term “self-absorbed” describes their generation, compared with 30% among Gen Xers, 20% of Boomers and just 7% of Silents. 

To be sure, some of these differences may be related more to age and life stage than to the unique characteristics of today’s generations. On several measures – including hard work, responsibility, willingness to sacrifice and self-reliance – the share in each generation expressing positive views declines step-wise across age cohorts, from the oldest to the youngest. 

There is only one description – “idealistic” – on which a generation other than the Silents views itself most positively: Somewhat more Millennials (39%) than Gen Xers (28%), Boomers (31%) or Silents (26%) describe their generation as idealistic. 

ALSO SEE: Accompanying explainer report that describes Pew Research Center’s approach to studying generations, along with some of the key insights that generational analysis provides into public attitudes and behaviors: http://www.people-press.org/2015/09/03/the-whys-and-hows-of-generations-research


Read entire article at Pew Research Center