Are The Millennials Different?

In their excellent 1991 book Generations, William Strauss and Neal Howe described the just-emerging Millennial generation (born 1982 and after). At a time when all Millennials were prepubescent, they wrote:

As these kids pass through school, they will sail smoothly behind a debris-clearing insistence on quality education and good behavior...The Millennial youth culture will be more clean-cut and homogeneous than any seen since that of the circa-1930 G.Is. By the first decade of the twenty-first century [i.e., now], schools will at last be fully computer-equipped and the learning style of students will shift from an MTV-ish 'parallel' thinking back to a more logical 'serial' thinking. Where Boomers and 13ers had once seen computers as a forced for social individuation, Millennials will see them as a force for social homogenization. Teen peer leaders will express a growing interest in community affairs and a growing enthusiasm for collective action...Teen pathologies--truancy, substance abuse, crime, suicide, unwed pregnancy--will all decline...Teen sex...will become less matter-of-fact and starkly physical, more romantic and friendly.

Strauss and Howe go on similarly and at greater length in their 1999 Millennials Rising.

Are these things now happening? It seems to me you could make a pretty good case that these predictions are coming true. Consider two items I came across on the blogosphere. First, a poll that shows that people in Missouri became more "pro-life" and less "pro-choice" from 1992 to 2007. Yes, there are limits to this finding, and the poll only asks people to choose different labels that may not reflect their full feelings on the subject. James Taranto has a good analysis in Best of the Web Today. But it seems to me to reflect a growing consensus, that abortion should not be criminalized but should be disfavored.

Another item comes via Instapundit, Ann Althouse's analysis of a New York Observer article on New Vics (New Victorians) in Manhattan. Probably just anecdotal evidence, as Althouse notes, but interesting: The young adults in this article were born right around 1982, the first birth year of Strauss and Howe's Millennial Generation. And 18-25s, who fall into that generation, would make up more than half of the 18-29 age cohort in the Missouri poll.

Generations may have hit the nail squarely on the head.


By Michael Barone
  • CBSNews

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