Thursday, February 7, 2013

Slow start for Millennials

A major new study of Millennials (18-29 age group) in the U.S. and civic participation has some good news and some very bad news.

  • Roughly half voted in the 2012 U.S. Presidential race, significantly less than the previous two Presidential elections (the report indicates that level is consistent with voting levels in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Millennials lead the nation in terms of civic use of social media, but continues to decline for almost all other (traditional) indicators of civic engagement and civic participation.  The study's report asserts that media often portrays Millennials as apathetic, lazy, and disengaged from their local communities, labeling these as misconceptions. 
      Immediately afterwards, though, the study concludes that - "many Millennials remain alienated and disempowered"; use news media less; are less likely to volunteer to help local community groups;  has voting turnout that's "one of the lowest youth turnout rates in the world"; that the most cited reason for not voting was "Washington being broken" (43%); Millennials were almost twice as likely to not trust their neighbors, and significantly less likely to exchange favors with neighbors than older populations; less likely to discuss current events with others (either online or in person); less likely to volunteer in their community; that those aged 22-25 are particularly "disengaged"; are 40-60% less likely to become a civic leader or voice (depending on marital status and having kids) than older people; and much less likely to participate in civic service activities.
      It raises the question of whether the so-called media stereotypes really are that wrong.
  • Interestingly, it's Millennials in the urban Northeast that are the least likely to engage in civic service activities
  • For Millennials, having a college education (or better) is a better predictor of socio-economic status than income.
  • While the official unemployment rate for Millennials is 9.7% (about 20% higher than the national average), the report indicates that only 63% of all those under 30 are employed. The remaining 27% are "out of the labor force" (students, stay-at-home parents or caregivers, those who have given up looking for work, etc). 
      However, the study also reports that almost a third of the "employed" are only working part-time. That means the aggregate employment numbers are: 43.5% employed full-time, 19% employed part-time, 9.7% unemployed and looking for jobs, and 27% unemployed but not looking for work.  The study notes that unemployment for younger Millennials (under 25) runs twice the national average (around 16%), and up to 4 times national average for Hispanic and Black youth.
Reading the language of the report, you can see the spin that the sponsors (civic groups trying to promote civic engagement) are trying to put on the numbers, which really aren't very supportive.  That is, unless you're an organization seeking funding to promote greater civic engagement.

Sources -  "Millennials" Play a Central Role in our Nation's Civic Health, but Who are They?, press release, National Conference on Citizenship
Millennials Civic Health Index, for downloadable study report.

Note; Infographic comes from a different study, and was added to provide additional background.

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