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2:55 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Millennial Daughter And Baby Boomer Mother Compare Notes

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 4:03 pm

More than 60 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 have made an excuse to take an impromptu vacation day, according to the 2014 annual travel survey by Springhill Suites.

That could be attributed in part to a shifting concept of work-life values by so-called “millennials” — the generation that’s gotten a bit of a reputation for being plugged-in, tuned-out and perhaps overly indulged.

But is that reputation deserved?

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Jessica Robinson of Northwest News Network gives us an idea of just who these “millennials” are, by comparing them with their parents.

Reporter

  • Jessica Robinson, inland Northwest correspondent for Northwest News Network, reporting from the network’s bureau in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She tweets @N3jessica.
Copyright 2014 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

This week, New York Times columnist David Brooks made the case that college kids today score far lower than 30 years ago when it comes to having a meaning philosophy of life and empathy. He concludes it's because it's more socially acceptable now to present yourself as lacking empathy or being success-oriented. Is that fair?

From the HERE AND NOW Contributor's Network, Jessica Robinson compares millennials to their parents.

JESSICA ROBINSON, BYLINE: First of all, let's just say upfront, it's hard to say exactly when one generation ends and another begins. But millennial generally refers to kids born between 1980 and the early 2000s. These are kids who have known how to use a computer as far back as they can remember. They went to college in unprecedented droves. And tried to launch the careers around the time the economy was killing careers.

But before we get to that, let's meet a millennial.

ZARA PALMER: Hi. My name is Zara Palmer, and I was born in 1992.

ROBINSON: Zara is a college student in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. I asked her to be our representative of the millennial generation. And I had her bring someone else to the interview.

JULIE PALMER: Hi. My name is Julie Palmer and I was born in 1959.

ROBINSON: Meet Zara's mom. Julie represents the baby boomers, once dubbed the me generation in this matchup with generation selfie. And speaking of selfies, let's start with one of the defining characteristics of millennials, their use of technology. Zara will admit to it. She's online all the time, starting with Facebook.

PALMER: And then there's Pinterest, and then there's Google, and then there's YouTube, and Netflix, and Hulu, and so, yeah, I'm on there quite a bit.

PALMER: Gee.

ROBINSON: Julie, on the other hand...

PALMER: I have none of that, no Facebook. People say, oh get on Facebook. Well, I have no time for that. I'd spend my whole evening...

PALMER: ...trying to just figure out how to log in.

ROBINSON: Ooh, point to Zara in the millennial corner.

PALMER: Love you, mom. It's true though.

ROBINSON: Zara, like most millennials, will cop to sharing a selfie photo. But at the same time, she's disdainful of technology's overuse. That matches at least one survey that found nine out of ten millennials believe people do share too much online. But technology isn't the full story here. To really compare Zara's generation with her mother's we need to go back in time, to when Julie was around the age Zara is now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (PART II)")

ROGER WATERS: (Singing) We don't need no education.

ROBINSON: The year was 1981. Most millennials were barely a twinkle in their parent's eye. Pink Floyd were wrapping up "The Wall" tour. And forget iPhones. Julie had a car with a stereo.

WATERS: It was a sports car, Datsun 280Z.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (PART II)")

WATERS: (Singing) Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone.

ROBINSON: Julie would go cruising around Los Angeles listening to music. She moved from her home in Ohio and was quite sure what to do for a job. She hadn't gone to college.

PALMER: So I went to banker teller school for, like, I think it was a six week gig or maybe even less than that.

ROBINSON: Right out of the program, she landed a job. Now it's a different story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "I WILL WAIT," BY MUMFORD & SONS)

MUMFORD & SONS: (Singing) Like a stone. And I fell heavy into your arms.

ROBINSON: Zara listens to bands like Mumford & Sons on the streaming service Pandora. And forget about cruising around town. Zara has a car, but many millennials don't. In fact, an increasing number don't even bother to get a driver's license.

But where Zara's generation is really facing a different world is when it comes to finding a job.

PALMER: Going to school and still going to school, I'm terrified. I mean, there's no guarantee. I mean, yeah, you have a fancy piece of paper, but you have to have experience that goes with it. And, like, as far as my mom goes, she went to a tell school for six months and then landed a supervisor...

PALMER: No, it wasn't even that, I think it was just like six weeks.

PALMER: Yeah, what? I'm going to get a four-year degree, and I mean, I would be happy with that job.

PALMER: I got my certificate.

ROBINSON: The Pew Research Center just issued a major report on millennials. It described the current 26 to 33 year olds as the best educated young adults in American history. Yet millennials are also the first modern generation to have more debt, higher poverty, and lower wealth than the two proceeding generations.

PALMER: We're the ones being hit with the economy, like, getting out of college. And we're the ones that are having to deal with, like, all of these--we feel like we're getting ripped off I feel like is what it boils down to.

ROBINSON: Pew found almost all millennials predict Social Security benefits will be reduced to some degree by the time they retire. Half of them think they won't receive a single cent. As difficult as the job market is now for recent college grads, millennials with only a high school diploma fare far worse than in previous generations.

So while Julie didn't feel pressure to go to college...

PALMER: College was up to you, basically.

ROBINSON: Zara says now it's practically mandatory.

PALMER: In school now they just--they say go to college, go to college. There's really no other option.

ROBINSON: So who has the most options in this generational faceoff? Julie says it's no contest for her.

PALMER: Oh, I say that all time. I'm so glad I'm not in her world. I don't know. I just don't know they do it now.

ROBINSON: Zara says her mom's time did seem less complicated. But she's torn.

PALMER: I think that right now is a really neat time just because things are so innovative and they're always, like, trumping the other things. But I feel people becoming so consumed by that. And, like, seriously, not just to look up and enjoy a beautiful day rather than being stuck to your, you know, phone screen is kind of pathetic.

ROBINSON: Here's one more thing to consider. Despite record student loan debt and high unemployment, the Pew Research Center found millennials do have an abundance of one thing: optimism. More than 8 in 10 believe they'll be able to afford to lead the kind of life they want, if not now, then in the future.

For HERE AND NOW, I'm Jessica Robinson in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

YOUNG: And one more thing, the Pew Research also shows millennials don't like traditional politics. But tomorrow we're going to meet four bucking that thinking. They've successfully run for state office. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.