Forging Their Own Path

A new Pew Research center study extensively profiles the millennial generation of young adults now age 18-33.

They are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, burdened by debt, in no hurry to marry, connected by social media, racially diverse, distrustful of society yet hopeful about the future, the survey says.

Half of millennials describe themselves as political independents and 29 percent claim no affiliation with any religion.

“These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research center has been polling on these topics,” the report says.

Some findings:

• 26 percent of this generation is married. This compares to 36 percent of Generation X when they were at this age, 48 percent of baby boomers, and 65 percent of the Silent Generation.

• Millennials view the Democratics more favorably than the Republicans. Millennials are more liberal on same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and marijuana legalization. But on abortion and gun control, their views “are not much different from those of older adults,” the report says.

• They are more optimistic about America’s future: 49 percent say the country’s best years are ahead. This compares to 42 percent of Gen Xers and 44 percent of boomers.

• 43 percent of millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation, the survey reports. This trend follows the wave of Hispanic and Asian immigrants in the U.S. over the last 50 years. Those immigrants’ U.S.-born children are now coming into adulthood, the report says.

• Statistically, Millennials enter adulthood with less trust in others: only 19 percent say most people can be trusted. This compares with 31 percent of Gen Xers, 37 percent of Silents and 40 percent of boomers.

“Their racial diversity may partly explain Millennials’ low levels of social trust,” the survey says. “A 2007 Pew Research center analysis found that minorities and low-income adults had lower levels of social trust than other groups. Based on similar findings over many years from other surveys, sociologists have theorized that people who feel vulnerable or disadvantaged for whatever reason find it riskier to trust because they’re less well-fortified to deal with the consequences of misplaced trust.”

Source: “Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from institutions, networked with friends,” Pew Research center, march 2014. See hood/