Millennials, right? They seem to be everywhere—on television, in movies, on the radio, in magazines… even on the streets. Even there. More than anywhere else, though, Millennials seem to constantly be turning up in that most popular form of media: the trend piece. Nary a week goes by without some sort of Millennial-based essay, unless, of course, it’s one centered around hipsters, which is really just media-code for Millennials anyway. But has all this Millennials chatter been nothing more than the media’s attempt to manufacture page views? (Yes!) Do Millennials even exist in numbers that warrant this type of close attention? (As it turns out, also yes!)
Last week, the New York Times compiled US Census data and determined that no longer is this country dominated by the Baby Boom generation, but is instead overwhelmingly populated by people in their early-20s AKA Millennials; “from 1947 through 2010, the largest single age group in the United States was born sometime in the 18 years after the end of World War II. In 1947, that was zero years old—babies who had not yet celebrated their first birthday. In 2010, it was 50-year-olds. But the Census Bureau now estimates that the biggest such group last year was 22-year-olds.”
So what does the mean other than not having to put up with any more stories about how great Woodstock was? Well! Maybe nothing. After all, this demographic shift isn’t incredibly dramatic; the numbers disparity between Boomers and Millennials is relatively small, meaning both groups remain influential. Plus, Boomers aren’t dying off as did previous generations who’d reached their advanced age. Rather, people in the US are living longer than ever before, which means that not only is our population full of young people, but it’s also increasingly getting older. (How’s that for cognitive dissonance!)
But there is one significant way in which the abundance of Millennials might soon be felt: politics. As the Washington Post reports,”The first year a Millennial age outnumbered any of the Boomers (according to the estimates) was 2012, when 21 became the most populous age. In 2012, something else happened: It was the first time since 1976 that Boomer voters picked the losing candidate in a presidential election.” In other words, we’re living in a time that embodies the family-holiday-preservation-tactic of ignoring your racist grandmother (not my racist grandmother, thank you very much, who at 93-years-old is one of the most progressive people I know) because, well, she’s going to die soon anyway. All those Boomers who don’t support same sex-marriage or legalizing weed are now going to be outnumbered by the youthful masses who overwhelmingly do support not only those initiatives, but many which are closely identified with liberal values. Add to that the collective Millennial awareness of entering the job market during a recession and living with crippling student loan debts and having to perform lockdown drills at school due to the nationwide rise of mass shootings and maybe—just maybe—it’s possible to see how things can change for the better in this country of ours.
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