The so-called “Millennial Generation” meaning 18-to-33-year-olds, are are less likely to be married, to self-identify as religious, or to affiliate with a political party than the generations before them, according to a new US poll from the Pew Forum.
They also have much lower levels of social trust, and are more likely to have high levels of student loan debt, to be poor, and to be unemployed than their two immediate predecessor generations at the same age.
However, they tend to be very optimistic about the future.
Pew's findings are based both on a new large survey conducted in February of this year, and on collating data from previous surveys.
They found that only 26% of Millennials are married. When they were the age that Millennials are now, 36% of Gen Xers (now aged 34-49), 48% of Baby Boomers (aged 50-68) and 65% of the members of the Silent Generation (aged 69-86) were married. Most unmarried Millennials (69%) say they would like to marry, but many lack what they deem to be a necessary prerequisite—a solid economic foundation.
Perhaps because of their slow journey to marriage, Millennials lead all generations in the share of out-of-wedlock births. In 2012, 47% of births to women in the Millennial generation were non-marital, compared with 21% among older women. Some of this gap reflects a lifecycle effect—older women have always been less likely to give birth outside of marriage. But the gap is also driven by a shift in behaviors in recent decades. In 1996, when Gen Xers were about the same age that Millennials were in 2012, just 35% of births to that generation’s mothers were outside of marriage (compared with 15% among older women in 1996).
Twenty-nine percent of Millenials are not affiliated with any religion—among highest levels of religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the last quarter-century.
Millenials' level of social trust is dramatically lower than that of previous generations: when asked the question “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,” just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.
Their levels of belief in God and views about abortion are, however, broadly in line with those of previous generations – and they tend to be far more optimistic, with more eight in ten saying that they either have or expect to have the necessary financial resources to live the lives they want to lead.