Millenials – Generation Y Definition

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Generation Y Definition

Generations of persons born within the 20 years running from the year 1980 to early 2000 are Generation Y, also referred to as “Millennials”.

A Little More on What is Generation Y

Preceding generations to millennials, that is persons born within the 20 years running from the year 1960 to early 1980 were referred to as Generation X. Consequently, Millennials became also known as Generation Y, with Ad Age magazine being the first publication to use the term in an August 1993 editorial.

Apart from Generation Y, Millennials have also had other assigned nicknames mostly premised on character traits, for example;

  • Echo boomers-because many were raised by parents born during the American baby boom.
  • Dotcom or internet generation-since they have had constant access to the latest technology   throughout their lives.
  • Peter pan or Boomerang – because a majority take time before moving out of their parents’ home, starting a career or committing to marriage.

Characteristics of Generation Y Millennials

Several, as well as publications, have characterized Generation Y with both positive and negative insights.

Negative Observation:

Ron Alsop in his 2008 book titled trophy kids discusses how millennials have often been rewarded for non-concrete achievements like mere participation in events such as sports among others. Ron further asserts that millennials approach to career life is usually full of unrealistic expectations.

According to an editorial in USA Today; a study conducted in 2012 based on a database of over nine million millennials students, both in high school and college, found a lack of concern on intrinsic social values but more emphasis on extrinsic values.

In contrast to Generation X, it seems Generation Y have little concern about intrinsic factors such as charity, cultivating meaningful relationships, protection of civil/political rights and self-acceptance among others. Surprisingly, Millennials are more concerned about extrinsic factors such as social image, having lots of money and being famous as the basis of a successful life.

Further, Time magazine report that polls show that millennials are among others; selfish, show no enthusiasm for work, and consequently, want flexible work schedule so that they can have more time for themselves. Also, Time magazine in a May 2013 editorial notes that millennials have been raised with excessive care of kindness and are delusional about life as a whole.

Despite, all the negative stereotypes surrounding Generation Y being backed by decades of sociological research, the Time story also admittedly observes that the negative characteristics could be perhaps millennials adapting to the information age world and even a possible explanation as to regular job hopping.

Positive Observation:

Millennials have been observed to be open-minded or liberal and receptive to new norms of lives, for instance, they have shown support to minority rights as well as the gay rights movements. They are also confident and self-expressive.

According to PEW research, millennials have embraced the use of public library than any other generation before them.

In contrast to Generation X, a 2016 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established that Generation Y is less sexually active. The youth risk behavior survey was conducted on more than 26,000 millennial adults between the ages of 20 to 24, and 15 percent reported having no sexual contact since age 18 compared to the reported 6 percent by Generation X.

However, despite millennials being viewed as liberal, the Council on Contemporary Families reported in the March 31, 2017 publication, that some high school seniors still hold the old narrative that a man is a breadwinner and a woman’s role is limited to caring for the home. Joanna Pepin, the co-author, and a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Maryland notes that the trend is a steady reversal.

More on Generation Y

Millennials have been called Generation Me, primarily for two reasons, being too self-absorbed and a lack of empathy for others. Research by Joshua Grubbs, a doctoral candidate at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, reported that millennials are aware that they are narcissistic. However, they don’t like to be referred to as self-centered.

The research was first presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in San Diego. Mr. Grubbs, a millennial himself, in a series of seven studies primarily asked millennials and older generations to rank each other’s narcissism in order to understand how his peers viewed the rising narcissistic trend as portrayed by the media.

In an interview with LiveScience, Mr. Grubbs stated that Narcissists are aware that they are self-absorbed but feel they have a right to and are less bothered of being labeled as such. Although often pinned on millennials alone, however, the trend is not new; research dating back to the early 1900s suggests narcissism has had a steady increment for at least a century.

Concurrently, Igor Grossman, a participant at the 2016 annual SPSP meeting and a distinguished psychologist at the University of Waterloo, supported the same assertion; that millennials are more self-centered than the previous generation with an indication of a consistent rise for over a century.

Nevertheless, scholars have termed the generalization of the entire Generation Y as either lazy or narcissistic among others as not wholly accurate; studies mostly focus on white suburban youths without consideration of immigrants and the millennial minority groups.

References for Generation Y

Academic Research on Generation Y

  • Understanding Generation Y and their use of social media: a review and research agenda, Bolton, R. N., Parasuraman, A., Hoefnagels, A., Migchels, N., Kabadayi, S., Gruber, T., … & Solnet, D. (2013). Journal of service management, 24(3), 245-267. The paper examines how there is a variation within Generation Y and how millennials use of social platforms bring out all those difference arising from environmental as well as individual factors.
  • •          Cause-related marketing: How generation Y responds, Cui, Y., Trent, E. S., Sullivan, P. M., & Matiru, G. N. (2003). International journal of retail & distribution management, 31(6), 310-320. The paper discusses and asserts that businesses targeting Generation Y need to employ a cause-related marketing (CRM) approach which has showed a positive relationship between evaluation of CRM offer and purchase intent toward the offer by millennials compared to traditional methods.


  • •          Managing generation Y, Eisner, S. P. (2005). SAM Advanced Management Journal, 70(4), 4. The paper gives insight on how businesses can manage Generation Y at the workplace and how to deal with some of their most exhibited social traits.
  • •          Targeting generation Y, Morton, L. P. (2002). Public Relations Quarterly, 47(2), 46. The paper looks at how research constructed out of the Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted during the financial crisis period by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that pressure to conform to group values influences Generation Y financial choices.
  • •          Generation Y: They’ve arrived at work with a new attitude, Armour, S. (2005). USA today, 6, 2005. The Article looks at how generation Y want more flexible working time, constant career feedback from their superiors and have a dislike to much work.
  • Generation Y female consumer decision-making styles, Bakewell, C., & Mitchell, V. W. (2003). International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 31(2), 95-106. The paper examines the decision making of Adult Female Generation Y consumers using Sproles and Kendall’s Consumer Styles Inventory (CSI) system of 1986 to divide them into groups based on shopping interests and their impact to marketers.
  • •          What drives college-age Generation Y consumers?, Noble, S. M., Haytko, D. L., & Phillips, J. (2009). Journal of business research, 62(6), 617-628. The paper examines the motivation behind millennials of college-going age consumer choices and tries to explain the relationship behind such decisions and their implications as a whole.
  • •          Generation Y attitudes towards e-ethics and internet-related misbehaviours, Freestone, O., & Mitchell, V. (2004). Journal of Business Ethics, 54(2), 121-128. The paper looks at how Generation Y knowledge of the internet has brought about related cyber-crimes as well as misuse at the expense of businesses. The research was conducted on 219 techno-literate millennial consumers and established 24 peculiar behaviors.

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