More and more attention is starting to be paid to the working and spending habits of the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers: Generation Y. With all the potential of a new and hopefully more engaged workforce, it’s important to stay informed about who researchers say “are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.”
Here are a few things you may already know about Generation Y:
- Also known as “Millennials”
- Born 1980 to 2000
- 80 million strong
- Grew up with school shootings, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Iraq
- Plagued with high levels of student debt
- Proficient with technology, often called “Digital Natives”
- Personality characteristics: confident, social, celebrate diversity, collaborative
But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Here are 36 facts of note (all based on research) about Generation Y. My generation.
Note: As I have said before, these generational characteristics are highly generalized and do not fully take into account variations based on race and class. Nonetheless, they do provide a useful framework in which to understand Millennials as a whole. A good companion piece for compare and contrast would be Pew Hispanic Center’s 2009 report, “Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America.”
1. Generation Y is more ethnically and racially diverse than older generations, with people of color making up about 40 percent of our population.
2. Half of all young people of color are Hispanic.
3. About 40 percent of all young adults ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in either a two- or four-year college in October 2008.
4. So far, one in five Millennials are college graduates. An additional 26 percent are currently in school and plan to graduate from college, while an additional 30 percent are not in school but expect to some day earn a college degree.
5. Younger whites are about twice as likely as blacks or Hispanics to have finished college (22 percent vs. 10 percent for both blacks and Latinos). But blacks are significantly more likely than whites or Hispanics to say they want to earn a college diploma.
6. About 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have been underemployed or out of work during the recession, the highest share among the age group in more than 30 years.
7. Nearly two-thirds of all Millennials have full- or part-time jobs.
8. Thirteen percent of all Millennials are students who do not work for pay.
9. Almost six in 10 employed Millennials say they already have switched careers at least once.
10. About 60 percent of younger workers say it is not very likely or not likely at all that they will stay with their current employers for the remainder of their working life. (In contrast, 62 percent of Generation X workers say it’s likely they will never leave their current employer, while 84 percent of Baby Boomers expect to remain with their current employer for the rest of their working life.)
11. Only one-third of Millennials say their current job is their career.
Debt and Financial Outlook
12. Thirty-six percent of all Millennials depend on financial support from their families, including 14 percent of all young adults who are working full time. 
13. More than one in three young workers say they are currently living at home with their parents. 
14. Thirty-one percent of young workers are uninsured. 
15. One-third of young workers cannot pay their bills. 
16. Seven in 10 young workers do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses. 
17. Roughly half of households headed by someone under 35 carry a credit card balance. 
18. Forty-one percent of younger households have auto loans. 
19. In 2008, 67 percent of students graduating from four-year colleges and universities had student loan debt. 
20. Average debt levels for graduating seniors with student loans rose to $23,200 in 2008. 
21. Only 58 percent of Millennials pay their monthly bills on time. 
22. Sixty percent of workers 20 to 29 years old cashed out their 401(k) retirement plans—typically a big financial no-no because such a move squanders retirement assets and forces the recipient to pay a tax penalty—when they changed or lost jobs. 
23. On average, Generation Yers each have more than three credit cards, and 20 percent carry a balance of more than $10,000. 
Sources:  Pew Research Center 2010 report, “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next”  AFL-CIO 2009 report, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade”  Demos 2010 report, “Risking Our Future Middle Class”  Project on Student Debt, Quick Facts January 2010  USA Today April 2010 article, “Generation Y’s steep financial hurdles: Huge debt, no savings”
Technology and Online Habits
24. Ninety-three percent of teens ages 12 to17 go online, as do 93 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29. 
25. Seventy-five percent of Millennials have created a profile on a social networking site. 
26. One in every five Millennials have posted a video of themselves online. 
27. Forty-one percent of Millennials use only a cell phone and have no landline. 
28. Over half of YouTube’s users are under 20 years old. 
29. Fifty-three percent of the total blogging population is 21 to 35 years old. 
Lifestyle, Civic Engagement, Family
30. Almost 40 percent of all Millennials have a tattoo. (About half of those with tattoos have two to five tattoos, and 18 percent have six or more.) Seventy percent say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing.
31. One in four Millennials are unaffiliated with any religion.
32. In 2008, 66 percent of Millennials voted for Barack Obama for President, compared with 50 percent of those 30 and older, the largest disparity between younger and older voters in 40 years.
33. Just two percent of Generation Y males are military veterans. (At a comparable stage of their life cycle, six percent of Gen Xer men, 13 percent of Baby Boomer men and 24 percent of Silent Generation men were veterans.)
34. Sixty-one percent of Millennials grew up in a two-parent household, a smaller percentage than the three previous generations.
35. Twenty-one percent of Millennials are married (half the percentage of their parents’ generation at the same ages).
36. Thirty-four percent of Millennials are parents.