Venerable institutions, national pastimes, and time honored traditions are all shaking in their boots. From the Golf industry to the “hang-out sitcom” to Democracy itself, Millennials have been blamed for essentially ruining everything completely beyond repair. This opinion seems to pervade nearly every part of the media network. Conservative conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and his website InfoWars peddle an image of millennials as disengaged, stupid, sheltered, and butt hurt. More mainstream conservative outlets such as FOX and The Wall Street Journal have variously referred to millennials as clueless, hopeless, and miserable. On the other side of the political aisle, venerable liberal publications such as The Atlantic have referred to Millennials as “the cheapest generation” and asked why we “hate groceries.” The New York Times began an article about Millennial run corporations with “Joel Pavelski, 27, isn’t the first person who has lied to his boss to scam some time off work.” If that sounds like it’s going somewhere negative, that’s because it is. On the liberal fringe too, ThinkProgress blames Millennial’s “nonchalance” towards HIV for the continued presence of the disease.
In short, just about everyone seems to think that Millennials are pretty much the worst generation ever. The opening sequence of HBO’s The Newsroom, seen by hundreds of millions of people on YouTube after its original airing, has Jeff Bridges’ character tell a college student “you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period.” With all of this negativity surrounding us and putting us down, it’s no wonder that our generation is the most likely in history to describe ourselves in negative terms.
There’s just one problem with the prevailing narrative of Millennials. Hardly any of it is actually true. By some of the most important metrics, Millennials are one of the best generations ever to walk the face of the earth. So without further ado, here are 9 facts about Millennials that you can’t ignore anymore.
1. Millennials are way smarter than you give us credit for.
Let’s start off with one of the most common insults hurled at Millennials: That we are stupid. This is patently false. Millennials are, far and away, the best educated Generation in history. And not only have more of us gone to college obtained higher degrees, across the world hundreds of millions more young people have completed primary education than their parents. This is despite the fact that the world experienced the worst economic crisis in three generations while many of us were still children. This is despite the fact that the cost of college has risen 1,120% since 1978, when many of our parents were just starting college. This is despite the fact that government expenditures per student have fallen substantially since the great recession and before. We also managed to become the best educated generation in history despite the fact that we are supposed to be the laziest generation in history.
2. Millennials are not lazy--we actually work harder than you do.
Everyone knows that Millennials are killing the 40 hour work week. But what’s less clear is exactly how so. The prevailing consensus among people who get their news from their Facebook newsfeed is that Millennials are too lazy to work long hours, too sheltered to deal with the pressures of working life. The prevailing wisdom is wrong. Millennials actually work an average of 45 hours a week in the United States, and even more in other parts of the world, with a high of 52 hours a week on average in India. This is true even before getting into the working world. With the process of getting into college becoming ever more competitive, millions of Millennials spent hundreds of hours a month on extracurricular activities in order to increase their chances of getting into their top choice. I personally spent between 10 to 14 hours a day at school every single day but one. My experience is far from isolated. Nearly all of my peers had similar schedules of school, extra-curriculars, and volunteer work.
3. Millennials are, in fact, just as stressed out as you are.
For all the talk about how coddled and sheltered Millennials are, we do feel stress in just the same way that older Generations do. According to the American Psychological association, both teenagers and adults report nearly identical levels of stress. In fact, teens are even more stressed than adults are during the school year. Additionally, teenagers are actually less likely to say that stress is affecting their physical and mental health than adults are. Even though medical science has repeatedly shown that stress nearly always negatively impacts health, us poor, coddled, fragile Millennials are actually handling it better than older adults.
4. Millennials are far better behaved than you were as kids.
Younger Millennials specifically, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, to engage in illegal activities, to fight with one another, to bring weapons to schools, and to get pregnant as teenagers. We are simultaneously more likely to work well in teams, to have safe sex (no thanks to your generation’s support for abstinence only education), and to make contributions to our community. Hell, we’re even more likely to wear seatbelts than previous generations. No matter which way you cut it, younger millennial teenagers today are less likely to be involved in the very activities that caused so many problems for those who came of age in the 70’s and 80’s.
5. Millennials are the most diverse generation ever.
Far from being completely shut out from the realities of life and being kept away from ideas that might hurt us, Millennials are actually more likely than any prior generation to be accepting of other cultures and value sets. We are the most racially diverse generation in the history of the United States and it shows in our passion for social justice, our willingness to experience new things, and our refusal to accept systemic injustices still prevalent in our society as “just the way things are.” We confront racial and class stereotypes, seek out people of different heritages, and have far more friends from different backgrounds than all previous generations.
6. Millennials speak more languages than you do.
In a world where Globalization dominates and speaking multiple languages is not only a marketable skill, but a critical part of getting things done, Millennials are already ahead of the curve. Compared to Gen Xers, Millennials are more than twice as likely to speak more than one language. When compared to the baby boomers that number increases even higher. And what’s more, many of us speak more than two languages. This may seem unimportant or frivolous to you, but given that nearly half of the world’s population speaks two or more languages, American Millennials are finally getting in touch with the rest of the world. While many of them learn to speak English as one of the many languages they speak, this really should be a two way street. I have classmates who already speak 3, 4, or 5 languages at the age of 18. Do you know how hard that is? Probably not, seeing as very few of you actually speak more than one language. But go ahead, keep telling us about how we don’t believe in working for success.
7. Millennials are more charitable than previous generations.
Despite the fact that nearly 60% of Millennials describe our generation as self-absorbed, we are far more charitable than we give ourselves credit for. A full 84% of Millennials made charitable contributions last year, averaging nearly $500. Given that we are also financially imperiled and the worst paid generation in history with an average student loan burden of nearly $30,000, that says a lot. What’s more, Millennials are also increasingly likely to donate more than just money. We donate our time, skills, and knowledge to projects the world over, particularly with a preference towards charities which help vulnerable children. Millennials have also been a force for bringing previously underfunded charities to the fore. For example, back in the summer of 2014, the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” swept across the country. People at the time described it as lazy, wasteful, and of course, self-absorbed, dubbing it the ultimate form of the now common phrase “internet activism.” The challenge raised more than 115 million dollars. That money helped researchers to discover a gene that may help them understand how ALS takes hold. Understanding how to stop that from happening could save as many as 5,600 people from getting the disease each year and as many as 148,000 from dying from it. Not bad for a bunch of internet slacktavists.
8. Our consumption choices make the world a better place.
Multiple studies have shown that Millennials prefer to buy from companies that give back to the world and to their communities. According to one particularly large study, “More than eight in 10 Millennials (81%) expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship” and that the effect “extends beyond buying physical products.” Indeed, more companies than ever before are organizing campaigns which have raised millions of dollars for various charities. Total direct corporate charitable giving was $18.5 billion in 2015. Millennials actively push corporations to increase how much they give to charitable causes around the world. Additionally, one of the primary motivations for Millennials in the workplace is the mission and purpose of the company. In fact, according to The Case Foundation, “What a company makes and sells matters and is the number one motivation for Millennials when applying for a job.
9. Millennials are the most global generation ever.
Millennials recognize the importance of globalization and are the generation most likely to take advantage of international opportunities, both in terms of study abroad opportunities in college and in terms of travel and international work experience. This is incredibly important going into the future. A 2014 survey found that nearly 40% of companies in the United States missed international opportunities because they didn’t have internationally competent employees. Furthermore, 95% of the worlds people live outside the United States, yet prior generations have seen fit to largely ignore the rest of the worlds people. Millennials, on the other hand, are far more interested in actually knowing people from around the world on a person to person basis and engaging with the rest of the world rather than dictating to it.
There you have it: 9 facts about the “worst generation ever,” showing that we are way better than you give us credit for. And that’s not all I could have written; that’s just a taste of all the things about millennials that never make the evening news but are nonetheless completely true. So the next time you feel the desire to dismiss someone because they’re a millennial and “don’t understand anything,” or you feel the need to blame them for something, remember this: The kids are more than alright.