Millennials Plan to Do Well By Doing Good

May 30, 2012

The Rutgers Center for Workplace Development has realeased What Workers Want in 2012,   a survey that canvassed 1,726 adults of various ages for information about their life priorities. The results show some interesting attitudinal differences among four generational groups:

  • Boomers
  • Gen X
  • Millennials
  • College students

Source: NYX's Economix blog


Summary descriptions from the report:

Baby Boomers

Defined as those between 49 and 65 at the time of the survey, they now make up the oldest cohort of the workforce. This group was parented by prosperity, and shares a presumption of entitlement to their world view. The Boomer cohort has always been big enough to force the culture to adapt to them. For years they have dictated politics and culture by their sheer number in a market-driven economy, and policy to the degree they have had a coherent outlook.

Generation X

Comprises those between 33 and 48, at the time of the survey. This group’s formative experiences were framed by familial and financial insecurity. They grew up amidst rising rates of divorce and recession. Where the sexual revolution of the Boomers
brought free expression and experimentation, the threat of AIDS brought Xers fear and caution. 


Defined as those between 21 and 32 in this study, they are much more like Boomers than Xers. They grew up as an affirmed generation, with a re-focus on the family, and are generally thought of as having high self-esteem and self-confidence. They are racially and ethnically diverse and tolerant of a variety of lifestyles. Information has always been virtually costless and universally available to them. 

My observations:

1. Millennials value marriage or life partnership far more than any other group, including Boomers. Perhaps due to a declining divorce rate as they came of age, they lack the cynicism of Gen X about relationships.

2. The exact same pattern among groups holds for the life goal of having children, with 65% of Millennials viewing it as essential or very important.

3. Millennials place a high priority of having a job that makes the world a better place. For an excellent essay on this sentiment, see Even Artichokes Have Doubts. 

Note: The piece was written by Marina Keegan, a young woman who was tragically killed over the weekend in a car accident on Cape Cod. She was 22, and had graduated from Yale just days ago. When she wrote the piece last fall challenging her college classmates to eschew finance and consulting for more valuable and meaningful work, the article was picked up by the New York Times, NPR and other media outlets. Keegan’s most recent (and heartbreaking) essay can be found here. Her parents have said they feel comforted by the fact that it has gone viral.

4. The Milennials also value leadership, wealth and prestige more than any other generation. Whether they’re optimistic or foolish, they intend to have it all. It will be particularly interesting to watch this generation balance work and family.