- Millennials, as a generation, are largely shaped by technological advancements and the Great Recession.
- The world has been quick to label millennials both positively and negatively based on their finances, personalities, and societal progress.
- From being called "the brokest generation" to "the loneliest generation," here’s how the world views millennials.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Every generation has its defining characteristics, but millennials are a generation unto their own — at least, that’s what the world says.
Raised by baby boomers, millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 and turn ages 23 to 38 this year. They’re the first generation to grow up with the internet. They came of age and entered the workforce during the Great Recession, both of which played a significant role in shaping their lives.
They’re also the first generation to inspire think pieces about themselves, wrote Annah Feinberg for The New Yorker. As such, no generation has arguably received as many labels.
Millennials have been highlighted for their financial struggles, criticized for acting special and entitled, and applauded for making progress in education and diversity.
Here’s how the world sees millennials today.
The most educated generation.
Jose Luis Magana/AP
NPR and the Pew Research Center have both said that millennials are the most educated generation in US history. According to Pew, 39% of millennials have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29% of Gen Xers, 24% of early baby boomers, and 25% of late baby boomers.
Thirty-six percent of all millennials ages 25 to 34 received a college education by 2015 — compared to 29% of the same-aged cohort in 2000 and 24% in 1980, according to a report by William H. Frey at Brookings Institution.
The most indebted generation.
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Despite being the most educated generation, millennials are also the most indebted generation. According to the New York Federal Reserve, millennials have accumulated more than $1 trillion of debt — a 22% rise in the past five years. That’s more than any other generation in history.
A decent portion of that debt is student-loan debt — as more millennials attended college and the price of tuition rose, the weight of student-loan debt has gotten higher. According to Student Loan Hero, the average student-loan debt per graduating student in 2018 who took out loans was a whopping $29,800.
However, despite their high levels of debt, the Great Recession and recent technological advancements have made millennials more conservative with their money, Jimmie Lenz, adjunct professor of finance at the University of South Carolina, wrote in a post syndicated on Business Insider.
The brokest generation.
Mauricio Santana/Getty Images
A report by the Fed published in November 2018 found that millennials’ spending habits are similar to earlier generations — except they have much less money than Gen Xers and baby boomers had at their age. "Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth," the study said.
American millennials also have an average net worth of less than $8,000, which puts them financially behind other generations, according to a Deloitte study released earlier this year. Their financial picture has largely been influenced by the Great Recession, increased living costs, and student-loan debt.
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