The Millennial generation, now the largest generation in America, diverges from preceding generations in important ways. First and foremost, today’s young people are more diverse than any previous generation, with the number of foreign-born 18- to 36-year-olds mirroring trends not seen since the last big immigration boom, at the beginning of the twentieth century, with more racial and ethnic diversity than ever before. As young people are reconciling with this new identity, they’re also struggling with the aftermath of a devastating recession which will, because of the lasting effects of economic recessions, follow young people throughout their careers. These dual perspectives–coming from a place of unprecedented diversity and economic uncertainty–play a big role in shaping young people’s views towards the world. For example, young people tend to to be significantly more progressive and inclusive on issues like gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform than preceding generations. Young people are truly transforming the country day by day, and, in order to understand that transformation, it’s important to understand young people themselves–their demographics, their economic stability, their views on civil rights and the environment, and their family and health backgrounds.
Fast Facts about Today’s Young People
Young people today are more diverse than ever.
- Young people are now the largest age group in the U.S.: There are 83.1 million 18- to 35-year-olds, compared to 75.4 million baby boomers.
- Young people are more diverse than any previous age group: 44.2% of young people are non-white, versus just 38.5% of 35- to 54-year-olds, and 25% of those 55 and older.
- Gender breakdown: According to the American Community Survey, there are 37,943,390 male 18- to 34-year-olds (50.9%), compared to 36,541,094 female 18- to 34-year-olds (49.1%).
- LGBTQ young people: 18- to 35-year-olds identify on the LGBT* spectrum at higher rates than any preceding age group. 8% of young people identify as LGBT, compared to just 5% of the American population overall.
Young People and Economic Stability
Because of the Great Recession and widening income inequality, young people (18-35) are struggling to enjoy the same level of economic stability their parents’ generation enjoyed.
- Despite increasing levels of education and large gains in productivity, young people today earn just about the same or less than their parents did at the same age: accounting for inflation, the median 30-year-old makes $19.32 an hour today, compared to the median 30-year-old’s hourly wage of $20.63 in 2004 and $18.99 in 1984.
- Youth unemployment:
- The 2017 unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds was 9.2%. In 2016, it was 10.4% and in 2015 it was 11.6%. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally adjusted)
- For 25- to 34-year-olds, the unemployment rate was 4.6% in 2017. In 2016, it was 5.1% and in 2015 it was 5.5%. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally adjusted)
- Youth unemployment by race and ethnicity:
- In 2017, the youth unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-old white youth was 8.1%, 14.6% for black youth, 9.5% for Latino youth, and 8.2% for Asian youth. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally unadjusted)
- For 25- to 34-year-olds in 2017, the white unemployment rate was 3.9%, the black unemployment rate was 8.4%, the Latino unemployment rate was 5.1%, and the Asian unemployment rate was 3.1%. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally unadjusted)
- Labor force participation:
- In 2017, the youth labor force participation rate (LFPR) for 16- to 24-year-olds was 55.5%. The closely mirrors the youth LFPR in 2015 and 2016 (55% and 55.2%, respectively), but falls short of pre-recession levels (60.8% in 2005, 60.6% in 2006, 59.4% in 2007). (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally adjusted)
- The LFPR for 25- to 34-year-olds in 2017 was 82.1%. In 2016 it was 81.6% and in 2015 it was 81%. Before the recession, levels hovered closer to 83%: in 2005, the LFPR for 25- to 34-year-olds was 82.8%, in 2006 it was 83%, and in 2007 it was 83.3%. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally adjusted)
- Labor force participation by race and ethnicity:
- In 2017, the LFPR for 16- to 24-year-old white youth was 57.2%, 52.1% for black youth, 53.3% for Latino youth, and 41.7% for Asian youth. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally unadjusted)
- For 25- to 34-year-olds in 2017, the white LFPR was 83%, the black rate was 80.1%, the Latino rate was 79.3%, and the Asian unemployment rate was 75.3%. (Author’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally unadjusted)
- More young people live in poverty than older generations did at the same age: 13.5 million Millennials (or 19.5% of all Millennials) fall below the poverty line.
- More young people work in retail than manufacturing: 21.5% of all 20- to 34-year-olds work in wholesale and retail trade jobs, versus just 6.7% in manufacturing jobs.
- Apprenticeships: While there are no generational breakdowns available, there are currently 505,000 apprentices of all ages nationwide.
Young people’s economic instability is evident based on their inability to save, and generational wealth is divided sharply by race.
- Savings: 67% of 18- to 24-year-olds have less than $1,000 in savings and of those, 46% have $0 in savings. For 25- to 34-year-olds, 61% have less than $1,000 in savings and 41% have no savings.
- Generational wealth: Regardless of age, white Americans are five times more likely than black Americans to receive an inheritance (36% to 7%), and when both receive an inheritance, white Americans’ inheritances are about 10 times larger.
Largely stemming from the student debt crisis, home ownership has fallen sharply among young people compared to previous generations.
- Homeownership: for households headed by those aged 35 homeownership has dropped sharply, from 43.1% in 2004 to 35.2% today.
While highly educated, young people face staggering amounts of student loan debt.
- Educational attainment: 64.4% of Americans 18 to 34 have graduated from high school, and 33.7% of 25- to 34-year-olds have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Student debt:
- Total: Overall, Americans now owe more than $1.4 trillion in student debt.
- Defaults: 1 million student loan borrowers default on almost $20 billion worth of federal loans every year. Of these, 3 out of 10 defaults are African American and just under one-half of defaulters, regardless of race, never finish college.
- Debt size:
- Trends: Student debt in America increased by 170% from 2006 to 2016.
- Student debt as a women’s issue: $800 billion of the $1.3 trillion of student debt analyzed by the American Association of University Women is held by women.
Young People and Civil Rights
Hate Crimes and Nondiscrimination Protections
Although hate crimes are on the rise, young people’s tolerance for them is on the decline, with strong support for non-discrimination protections across the board.
- Hate crimes: While generational information isn’t available, the vast majority of hate crimes in 2016 (58.9%) targeted victims because of their race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry. Another 21.1% were victimized because of their religion (including a large increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims), 16.7% were targeted because of their perceived sexual orientation and 1.7% because of their perceived gender identity. As the most diverse generation, young people suffer when hate crimes increase.
- Non-discrimination protections: 90% of Americans 18 to 30 years old support non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in employment.
- Judicial system:
- Nearly one in two 18- to 29-year-olds do not believe in the U.S. judicial system’s ability to fairly judge people without bias for race and ethnicity.
- While generational breakdowns were not available, overall 61% of Americans believe Trump’s judicial nominees will favor the wealthy and powerful over everyday people. Additionally, 41% have confidence in Trump to nominated good federal judges and Supreme Court justices.
- Voting: In the 2016 presidential election, 1 in 4 young people had to fill out a provisional ballot because of questions of eligibility, compared to 6% of Baby Boomers and 2% of the Greatest Generation.
Gun Violence Prevention and Criminal Justice Reform
In general, young people (18-35) strongly support finding solutions to issues concerning our criminal justice system and high rates of gun violence–two epidemics that disproportionately affect younger Americans, and particularly young Americans of color.
- 71% of young voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who was committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions, increasing officer and leadership diversity, and eliminating racial profiling.
- 69% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports laws that prohibit gun purchases by perpetrators of hate crimes, individuals with ties to terrorist organizations or individuals with a history of domestic violence.
- 62% of young voters say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.
More so than previous generations, immigrants are helping define today’s 18- to 35-year-olds.
- DACA: There are nearly 800,000 young people who have DACA, who, by definition cannot be older than 36 years old as of June 15, 2017.
Young People and the Environment
Young (18-35) Americans are more concerned about the environment, and ready to take action, than older generations.
- 72% of young voters say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports investing in renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint and create jobs.
- Young people are more concerned about climate change than older generations.
- As natural disasters become more and more frequent, low-income people bear the brunt of the costs, and young people are disproportionately affected.
Young People, Family, and Health
Though often overlooked, many of today’s young Americans are parents, with young people (18-35) making up the vast majority of new parents.
- Number of student parents: Just under 26% of all college students are student-parents. Women make up 71% of student-parents and black women make up 47% of all women student-parents.
- Number of young parents: young women accounted for 82% of all births in 2015. 1.3 million young women gave birth for the first time in 2018.
- Child care accessibility: More than half of all Americans live in child care deserts. 60% of Hispanic Americans live in child care deserts, and 75% of rural Alaska Native/American Indians do.
- 83% of young people say they would leave their job for one with more family-friendly policies.
- In 16 states and DC, it takes more than 50% of a young person’s income to pay for an infant to be in center-based child care. In only 7 states does it cost less than 30%.
After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, young people’s health insurance coverage increased dramatically, though a significant percentage still lack health care.
- Uninsured rate: 16% of young people lacked health care in 2015.
- Insurance Coverage Increase: Young people experienced a 45% increase in health insurance coverage between 2010 and 2015, the largest of any age demographic.
Note: Definitions of the Millennial generation vary, and today’s 18- 19-year-olds are part of the next generation, Generation Z. When possible, we have attempted to provide the specific ages behind the data points listed to include as many 18- to 35-year-olds as possible, and to provide accuracy on the data itself.
*Generation Progress uses the abbreviation LGBTQ to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. However, when studies refer to LGBTQ individuals using varying acronyms (a non-exhaustive list being LGBT, LGBTQIA, LGBTQ+) we use the term used in the study to represent the data as accurately as possible.