“Unlike many of their boomer parents, millennials are not changing the world through calls for revolution and political movements. But like the boomers, observers of this generation say millennials have made a loud entrance onto the national stage. So what does it mean to be a millennial?”
Millennials, generally defined as adults between the ages of 18 to 33, may have morals and values that seem different to those of previous generations, and questions were raised Monday during Rehm's show as to whether they feel entitled.
Rehm’s guest millennials said they felt let down by society. After growing up in the prosperous 1990s and then coming of age as the economy collapsed, some said they were duped.
“It's not entitlement when someone makes a promise to you and then as a society fails to live up to the promise of what they told you your world was going to be like,” David Burstein told Rehm, adding that society didn't keep "the promises that they made to this generation.”
Rehm asked rhetorically, “Of course you've heard the statement from many people that there are no guarantees in this life.”
The younger generation agreed with Rehm, but on the issue of college debt they held their ground, saying the current U.S. system of student loans creates a have and have-not class system: Wealthy parents pay for their kids’ college education, less affluent students take out loans and are saddled with debt after graduation, they argued.
Twenty-something Hannah Seligson said student debt among the have-nots “is unconscionable” and “a true scandal.”
Rehm asked Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center for his opinion on whether such thinking was “entitled.”
“ … Psychologists who look at personality attributes have suggested that there is some level of narcissism in this generation that's higher than previous generations," Taylor said. "If I were to locate a proximate cause of that I think I might go to the parenting styles of this generation. There's been a lot of literature on this generation was raised as a pretty coddled generation. The everybody-gets-a-trophy generation.”
Still, the millennials may have a lot to offer in terms of forward thinking, it was suggested on Rehm’s show. The generation seems far less concerned about social issues like gay marriage and interracial marriage. Also, without jobs and with mounting student debt, the younger generation is being forced to think in entrepreneurial ways, rather than finding a job through an employer, it was suggested.
And digital technology may be where many turn.
“The millennial generation is the first generation of digital natives,” Taylor said. “For this generation, of course, it's the only world they've ever known, and they are able to adapt to it and take it to places that the rest of us will be chasing them.”