It always upsets me when I hear people say that young people today don’t care about anything–that we’re selfish and unmotivated. In fact, that is far from true. And I have seen first hand how much young people care about things that don’t affect their lives at all.
Millennials usually prefer to show our compassion through local volunteering. I touched upon the record-high levels of community service among Millennials in the Team Oriented section, but I didn’t get into why Millennials volunteer. Some may guess it’s because community service is now a requirement for high school students, but in fact, that isn’t the main reason. According to a 2006 Harvard Institute of Politics survey, 88 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds said community service was an honorable thing to do, and most believe it is effective on both the local and national levels. Another 2006 survey found that 74 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds said that their number one reason for volunteering was to help other people, and 11 percent said it was to address a social or political problem (and if you think about it, both usually involve helping people to some degree). None said that it was because it was a requirement to graduate from high school. A 2006 UCLA survey of 26,000 freshman found that two-thirds said that it is “essential or very important” to help others, the highest percentage to agree with this statement in 25 years. And throughout the year 2006, over a quarter of all national volunteers were Millennials; however, we only comprised 15 percent of the total population. By 2009, the share of incoming college freshman who reported doing community service was at an all time high of 85 percent, and the proportion who said that they were very likely to continue volunteering in college was at an all time high as well.
Millennials volunteer mainly because we want to help people. We want to be a part of changing and improving lives and we have quite a bit of disdain for selfishness. As a matter of fact, according to one poll, when Millennials were asked to identify the major causes of America’s problems, the seven most popular answers all had to do with adult individualism. The number one answer with 56 percent of the vote was “selfishness, people not thinking of the rights of others.” Also, the majority of Millennials say that the rising inequality gap is a serious problem in this country. A 2004 National Election Survey found that 84 percent of 18-to-26-year-olds felt that the gap between rich and poor had grown in the last twenty years and 94 percent said that this was a bad thing, a higher percentage than all other generations.
Also, Millennials have a much higher attraction to public service related jobs than older generations. According to the Universum Ideal Employer Survey, when students were asked what industry they would most like to work for, “Government/Public Service” was first out of 46 total options. When asked why these students would like to work in government or public service, nearly three-quarters cited the “opportunity to make a difference” and the “ability to help people.” Studies have also shown that Millennials are more attracted to products that give back, such as those that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
Overall, Millennials feel obligated to do our part to make the world a better place, and we believe that we can. And remember, Civic generations tend to bring about times of greater economic equality and more inclusive racial and ethnic concerns. Thus, it isn’t surprising that a Civic generation like Millennials shows high levels of compassion–a characteristic will certainly be instrumental in helping us to build a powerful legacy.