Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Generations

I just got back from another in a long series of events that attempts to define the Millenial generation -- my generation. This event was at the New America Foundation and was called "The Latest Generation" and was based on two NAF-sponsored reports, Yes We Can: The Emergence of Millenials as a Political Generation [pdf] (oh yes, they went there) and The Millenial Pendulum: A New Generation of Voters and the Prospects for a Political Realignment [pdf].

While both reports have some interesting nuggets of fact, they are heavily laden with some broad and general assumptions of privilege of my generation. We're a generation that "trusts institutions," finds value in volunteering and public service, doesn't like to "take risk," and is "upbeat and optimistic." I know, I know, it made me gag a little too, but for me the most interesting part of the event was something brought up by Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE and one of the co-authors of the second report. He noted that all of these facts tend to be about the college-educated and college-bound members of the Millenial generation. When he conducted a focus group with inner city youth, they associated "community service" with a penalty rather than a run for office. In the end, Levine said, "about half of the generation isn't represented by the numbers we've been showing you."

There is, of course, reason to believe that young people are overwhelmingly progressive and are likely to remain so over the course of their lives. We may grow slightly more conservative over time but the analysis seems to suggest that the starting place matters. Here's a graph from that second report to show you what they were talking about:

1 comment:

AJ said...

I saw an awesome article on the millennials at FLYP: Meet the Millennials.

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