Generation Next: A Snapshot

  • July 20, 2006

Few generations have grown up during a period of such rapid and dramatic change. Born between 1980 and 1990, Generation Next has already seen extraordinary political, military, economic, technological and social changes. They have lived in a post-Cold War world and a time of relative economic prosperity in America, but they have also experienced September 11th and the fear of another attack, two Gulf Wars, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina and the increasing polarization of public discourse. All this has occurred in the midst of a communications revolution. More than any who came before, Generation Next is engaged with technology, and the vast majority is dependent upon it.

  • Diversity:  
  • Generation Next is the most racially diverse generation in the history of the United States.1  
  • Approximately 62% of 18-24 year-olds are white, down from 87% in 1972. 
  • Including non-citizens, the 18-24 year-old Latino population is now larger than the corresponding African-American population in the United States.  
  • 58% of Generation Next believes the Nation needs to be more accepting of difference and diversity.3  
  • Generation Next is more accepting of homosexuality and interracial dating.4 

  • Transition to Adulthood:  
  • Generation Next is changing the traditional path to adulthood: starting families later, interspersing work and education, and switching careers more frequently.5  
  • A majority of Generation Next feels satisfied financially, but receives greater financial support from their parents and has more debt than previous generations.6 

  • Education, Job Prospects & Media:  
  • A college degree is more essential to higher earnings now than ever before. Male high school graduates with no college degree make relatively less now, on average, than they did in 1975. 
  • Young women in Generation Next are more likely to attend college than young men.8  
  • Among 16-24 year-old African-American men not enrolled in school, only about half are working. Roughly one third of all young black men are involved in the criminal justice system at any one time.9  
  • Generation Next reads fewer newspapers and tunes to fewer radio and television news programs.10 

Over the course of the year, veteran journalist Judy Woodruff joins forces with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, embarking on a wide-ranging expedition to listen to both the engaged and the disenfranchised members of Generation Next. The goal of the project is straightforward: to glean as complete an understanding as possible of young people's take on a broad cross section of social, political, and pop culture issues, from family, relationships, religion and personal values, to government and leadership, America's role in the world, immigration, diversity and the quality of their schools. Where do they get their information, how do they define success, and what does it mean to them to be an American? The demographic group, often referred to as the "millennials," are courted aggressively by advertisers, but overlooked or even ignored by policymakers.

-------------------------------------------------

1 Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research Inc."OMG! How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era"
2 CIRCLE: Electoral Engagement Among Minority Youth
3 Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research Inc."Coming of Age in America"
4 Pew Center for the People and the Press
5 The Network on Transitions to Adulthood, "October 2004 Policy Brief"
6 The Network on Transitions to Adulthood, "October 2004 Policy Brief" and the Pew Center on the People and the Press
7 Prof. Sheldon Danziger, University of Michigan
8 CIRCLE, "Electoral Engagement Among Non-College Attending Youth"
9 Harry Holzer, Peter Edelman, Paul Offner: Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men
10 Pew Center for the People and the Press