“Young people are still intending to marry and have children in very much the same proportions that they used to,” says Robin Marantz Henig, a co-author of “Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?” “The real difference is that they’re marrying later and that many have cohabitated before they marry.”
4. Republicans don’t stand a chance with them.
There is no denying that young people turned the last presidential election. Had the legal voting age been 30 in 2012, the nation would have elected Mitt Romney.
But even then, there were signs that the Democrats’ advantage among millennials was eroding. In 2008, 66 percent of voters 18 to 29 chose Barack Obama. By 2012, support for Obama among 18-to-29-year-olds had fallen to 60 percent, the steepest drop of any cohort.
Today, it’s difficult to say that the right has a millennial problem. In a Harvard survey this spring of 18-to-29-year-olds, a quarter identified as Republicans, the same share as the broader population in a July Gallup poll. Young people identify as Democrats more than the country does as a whole (37 percent vs. 31 percent), but neither party carries a majority, on account of the independents. “Neither brand is particularly popular on campus,” says Alex Smith, the national chair of the College Republicans.
Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, has predicted that millennials, who will make up nearly 40 percent of America’s eligible voters by 2020, will help ensure progressive victories in the years ahead. But who wins the millennials in the long run may come down to how the parties and their platforms evolve.
5. They have an infinitesimal attention span.
Surely, the effort required to narrow the infinite stream of information aimed at millennials every day must be destroying their ability to focus on any one task. Right?
Really, we have no idea. No one has mounted a long-term, standardized study of attention comparing millennials to a previous cohort at the same point in their lives.
Michael Posner, a professor emeritus of psychology who studies attention and memory at the University of Oregon, says criticism of the millennial attention span is probably unwarranted. “The same people who say they have no attention span say they spend all their time playing video games, in which they show sustained attention,” he notes.
There is some evidence that multitasking — a hallmark of the cookie-cutter millennial — is associated with a decline in attention, but evidence also suggests that multitasking is on the rise among all age groups. When was the last time you had just one browser open?
By at least one measure, however, millennials may have a cognitive leg up. Jim Flynn, a psychology and political studies professor at New Zealand’s University of Otago who has tracked IQ scores across generations, says that scores have been steadily rising in the United States since 1947 and that, on average, millennials should hold about a six-point edge over the cohort 20 years their senior. He says the gains come mainly in vocabulary and logical reasoning and, “potentially, could help them make better judgments about the world.”
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