How the Millennial Generation Works


Erin Ziering, Beverley Mitchell, Kendra Wilkinson, Tori Spelling, Jessica Hall, Veena Crownholm, Kimberly Caldwell and Nikki Lund attend the Millennial Mamas' Mom's Night Out at The Commons at Calabasas, California in 2018. Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Every generation has its own attitudes, values and even quirks. And every generation likes to think it's better than the ones that came before or after. Sometimes it seems that no generation gets more flack than millennials, the group older generations often erroneously write off as lazy and entitled, but also think are really good at social media and gaming.

We broke down the biggest stereotypes about millennials in another article. For this one, we want to look at key statistics about the millennial generation, starting with how it's defined.

There were roughly 71 million millennials in the U.S. in 2016, the latest figures available according to the Pew Research Center and this cohort is expected to surpass the numbers of baby boomers (those born between 1946 to 1964) in 2019 (73 million to 72 million). There are no official dates to determine who counts as a millennial. The U.S. Census Bureau has official years designated for boomers but not for other generations. Most people define the generation after boomers, Generation X (Gen Xers) as those born between 1965 and 1980, though sometimes this can end in the late 1970s. And the millennial generation can have parameters as early as 1978 and as late as 2000. Pew defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. (Anyone born after 1996, is a member of Generation Z.)

Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research Center, explained in a 2019 article why Pew had decided on those dates for millennials: "Most Millennials were between the ages of 5 and 20 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the nation, and many were old enough to comprehend the historical significance of that moment, while most members of Gen Z have little or no memory of the event," Dimock wrote. "Millennials also grew up in the shadow of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which sharpened broader views of the parties and contributed to the intense political polarization that shapes the current political environment. And most Millennials were between 12 and 27 during the 2008 election, where the force of the youth vote became part of the political conversation and helped elect the first black president."

Dimock also noted that most millennials entered the workforce at the height of the Great Recession (roughly 2008-2010), which affected future earnings and life choices, like delaying marriage and children. Many media outlets have decided to use the Pew definition of millennials for their own reporting.

One of the seminal books about this generation, "Millennials Rising" by Neil Howe and William Strauss, was published in 2000. The authors settled on the name "millennials" rather than "Generation Y" or "Echo Boomers," which were once considered common labels, because they found that the youths themselves preferred it. Compared to those other names, the term "millennial" didn't put them in the shadow of a previous generation. The term also fed into the fact that those children born around 1982 would be graduating high school at the turn of the millennium.

The authors caught on early to some identifying traits of the millennials that have been supported by subsequent research, such as their absorption of technology into their daily lives, as well as an indomitable confidence both in the future and in themselves — perhaps to a fault [source: The Center for Generational Kinetics].

We'll discuss more about the millennial generation's attitudes on the next page.