A big new report on millennials was released today by the Pew Research Center, covering a lot of the same stuff we’re always hearing about this oft-discussed generation. Millennials are diverse, they’re not making a lot of money and they’re really into this Internet I keep hearing so much about.
Still, there were some interesting takeaways! Here are four things that caught my attention.
(Take note: The report focuses on people between ages 18 and 33, leaving out the teenagers who still technically count as millennials.)
1. People Are Not To Be Trusted …
My generation does not seem to think other people are trustworthy. Just 19 percent of millennials say that people can be trusted, a much lower number than the other three generations (Generation X, covering people ages 34 to 49; Baby Boomers, defined as people 50 to 68; and the Silent Generation, 69 to 86).
2. … but the future is bright!
Still, in spite of this, millennials do have some optimism. Nearly half of them (49 percent) say the country’s best days are still to come, more than Generation X (42 percent), Baby Boomers (44 percent) and the Silent Generation (39 percent). And many millennials are optimistic about their financial situation going forward, with more than half of them (53 percent) saying they don’t earn enough money now but will down the line.
Don’t write this off as simple wide-eyed optimism that will be beaten down by decades of hard work, mortgage payments and layoffs, either. Millennials have essentially no faith that Social Security will be available to them when they retire. Just 6 percent of people in this generation think they will get the Social Security benefits given to current recipients. Half of millennials think there will be no money left in the system when they retire, while 39 percent say they expect some reduced retirement benefits.
3. Student loan debt is still a brutal wraith haunting this generation
We already knew that the Great Recession and the ensuing recovery has been particularly rough on this generation. Though millennials are optimistic about the future, other generations agree that today’s young adults face a tougher economic situation than these generations did when they were younger:
In addition to unemployment and stagnating wages, this generation is also looking at massive student loan debt. One in three older millennials (“older millennials” being a relative term here, referring to people between 26 and 33) have at least a four-year college degree, which makes them the best-educated batch of young adults in this country’s history, Pew found. But student loan debts remain a crushing problem for these college graduates. Pew found that two-thirds of people who recently graduated with bachelor’s degrees have student loans to pay back, with an average student loan debt of about $27,000. (Two decades ago, the numbers were smaller on both counts, with half of graduates carrying student loan debts and the average debt coming in at $15,000.)
4. It’s Okay To Use A Cellphone Basically Anywhere, Right?
The issue of when it’s okay to use a cellphone varies from generation to generation. Overall, a majority of people believe you shouldn’t check your phone at family dinner (72 percent), during class (82 percent), during a meeting (81 percent) or at a religious service (89 percent).
But when you break it down by age group, there’s a clear divide: Generation X and millennials think phones should be used more than older people, which is not terribly surprising. The one quirk here is that there’s a category where Generation X actually supports more phone usage than millennials: business meetings.
Note that this question focuses on when it’s okay to use a phone to look at something online or exchange messages, rather than actually making phone calls (because really, who uses their phone to talk?).
5. Also, Since We Are Obligated By The Rules Of The Internet, The “Selfie” Numbers
Here’s how many people of each generation say they have shared a photo they took of themselves.
You can read more about the study — including how millennials and other generations see themselves on issues like religion, the environment and gay rights — over at GovBeat.
If the study itself doesn’t interest you, Jessica Roy at Time noted some things that weren’t in there but probably should have been. Do nearly 30 percent of millennials think you’re just the worst? No, but it sounds almost believable.