Millennials: Confident, Connected & Open to Change (And a Plug for my SXSW Panel…)

March 6, 2010

If you haven’t already seen it, late last month the Pew Research Center released a new study on millennials, titled “Millennials: Confident, Connected, and Open to Change.” I think it presents a lot of fascinating new facts about our generation — but also has some points I would personally dispute.

One of the first pieces of information is something I think — or at least I hope — we already knew: millennials are less white and more diverse than older generations. I think this is exciting for so many reasons but most of all because in 10, 20, 30 years when the millennials begin to assume positions of greater power in society — media, politics, business — our diverse backgrounds will have such a deep and profound impact on the way society functions. It is already changing things now — and can only change the way the world works even more in the coming decades.

However, it’s not all rosy: 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.

The study points out that we’re on track to become the most highly educated generation in history: Among 18 to 24 year olds a record share — 39.6% — was enrolled in college as of 2008, according to census data. However, I think the study misses the larger point that there is still a huge amount of young people not getting the education they need — and non-college youth are often overlooked in research studies, by marketered, and by political campaigns.

I think there’s still a lot of questions to be answered as this generation grows older about how their differences in education level, technology usage, diversity, and priorities and lifestyles will shape American society in the next few years. I’m speaking on a panel at SXSW Interactive next week that hopes to address, or at least start a conversation about, some of these issues — with a focus on how millennials function in the workforce. If you’re going to be at SXSW Interactive, I hope you’ll attend! You can learn more about our panel here and here. And follow the hashtag #sxgeny on Twitter for further information and updates.

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