GO NOWHERE OR GENERATION WHY BOTHER? Facts, stereotypes and personal observations
I recently read what may be surprising statistics in a New York Times Opinion piece, “The Go Nowhere Generation “ (March 11, 2012) by Todd G. Buchholz and Victoria Buchholz about the group now known as emerging adults or enduring adolescents (18-to twenty-somethings). Based on studies from reputable sources:
- The proportion of young adults living in their parents’ home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008 (before the Great Recession). [Pew Research Center]
- Young people want to stay connected with their hometowns and are turning down jobs in their chosen field for lesser choices in their hometown. [Harvard Institute of Politics]
- An increasing number of teenagers aren’t even bothering to get a driver’s license, dropping from 80% getting licenses in 1980 to 65%in 2008. [University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute]. The TRI also found that when young people spent more time on the Internet, they delayed getting a driver’s license.
- “Young people raised during recessions end up less entrepreneurial and less willing to leave home because they believe luck counts more than effort,” said Paula Guiliano, an economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. (Since the statistics are from before the Great Recession, I assume the reference for Gen Ys could be the recession around 2000-2001.)
While I’m not denying the validity of the statistics, I find some of the numbers and conclusions counter to what I’ve observed of the ambitious college students and recent graduates I have met and worked with on projects and as a mentor. So many, if they can swing it financially, are spending semesters abroad, looking for the experience of working abroad after graduation and even starting businesses in developing countries. And so many want to start their own businesses as soon as they can learn enough to take the plunge, rather than working for large corporations. They jump at learning opportunities, as long as they are treated well, even without pay. On the other hand, there is a strong materialistic streak in the generation as a whole at the same time as being drawn to altruistic causes.
One of the things this tells me is that Gen Y does not come in one flavor. No generation does, particularly if viewed as a cohort covering 15-20 years. They are right to resent being characterized as if they are all the same. They want to forge their own paths, and I believe they will, even if the economy causes delays.
Yet there are important patterns as the statistics illustrate. Behavioral and attitudinal changes are occurring, and the outcome is dependent as much on our reaction to them as the changes themselves. We need to give the greatest weight to our own experiences with people and do our part to make the experiences positive, constructive and educational.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com