What is a Millennial?

Millennials are the generation born between 1982 and sometime in the early 2000’s. However, these boundaries aren’t set in stone. If you were born a little earlier than 1982 and you consider yourself to be more Millennial than Generation X, that is your prerogative. Or if you were born in or just after 2000 and you feel that you are more a part of the next generation than a Millennial, the same applies.  It is really up to the individuals born during the cusp years to decide the generation to which they feel a stronger connection.

Defining a generation can be a tricky thing.  Neil Howe and William Strauss, who coined the name Millennials back in the early 1990’s, are the renowned experts on American generations.  Below is an excerpt from their company’s website (LifeCourse Associates) that explains how they define generations:

“At LifeCourse, we define a generation as the aggregate of all people born over a span of roughly twenty years, or about the length of one phase of life: childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and old age. We identify particular generations, from first birth year to last, by looking for cohort groups of this length that share three criteria. This three-fold definition synthesizes what we consider the best insights of two centuries of generational writers, from John Stuart Mill and August Compte to Karl Manheim and Ortega y Gassett.

  1. Members of a generation share an age location in history. They encounter key historical events and social trends while occupying the same phase of life. For example, the G.I. Generation, who came of age during a crisis era of depression and world war, were shaped very differently from their Boomer children, who came of age during an awakening era of values experimentation and youth rebellion.

  2. Because members of a generation are shaped in lasting ways by the eras they encounter as children and young adults, they also tend to share some common beliefs and behaviors, including basic attitudes about risk taking, culture and values, civic engagement, and family life.

  3. Aware of the experiences and traits they share with their peers, members of a generation tend to have a sense of common perceived membership in that generation. Numerous surveys have shown that most members of various generations identify themselves as a unique group with a different outlook from those outside their generation.

Most researchers focus on age brackets, as though the people in these brackets were constant and unchanging. We believe this approach is deeply misleading. People never “belong” to an age bracket. Rather, they belong to a generation that happens to be passing through an age bracket—a generation with its own memories, language, habits, beliefs, and life lessons.”

Over the years I’ve come across varying beginning and ending years for the Millennial Generation.  I feel that the best defining years are beginning in 1982 and ending in 2000.  The ending year may still shift, but that should be up to those born around that time.  The people born between 1982 and 2000 certainly meet the three-fold parameters used by Howe and Strauss.  

In this section, ten key characteristics of the Millennial Generation are reviewed using data analysis from polls, surveys and studies. These characteristics do a great job of summing up what the Millennial Generation is like as a whole. However, that isn’t to say that all Millennials possess all the traits discussed; these are really, more or less, generalizations.

Millennials certainly have an important role to play in shaping the future of the country and the world, as is discussed in the Generational Archetypes and The Millennial Crisis sections. Fortunately, we appear to have the necessary characteristics that will help us play our role very well and become America’s next great generation.

How Millennial are you? Go here to find out.

Leave a Reply