I am at the older end of the generation known as the “millennials” – those born roughly between 1980 and 1997 who are now between 18 and 35 years old. The generation older than the millennials is called “generation x” (roughly 35-50 years old), the next older is the “baby boomers” (roughly 50-70) and the one older than that is the “silent generation” (70-87 years old). Those names are all very American-centric and arbitrary in their dividing lines, but they do help to delineate between age-groups who grew up with very different technological and social environments from their predecessors and their successors.

With that in mind, it is interesting to read of the Pew Research Center’s latest polling on generational attitudes. The survey, which contained information from interviews with over 3,000 respondents, found that millennials do not have a very high opinion of their own generation.

“More than half of millennials, 59%, described their generation as ‘self-absorbed’ while 49% said they were ‘wasteful’ and 43% said they were ‘greedy’.

Around 30% of Generation Xers — those ages 35 and 50 — said their own generation was self-absorbed and wasteful, and 20% of the baby boomers said the same about their age cohort.”

The older the generational group, the more likely it was that they saw themselves in a positive light.  Thus, the oldest generation surveyed, the silent generation, described themselves as “hard-working” (83%), “responsible” (78%) and “patriotic” (73%). The baby boomers picked those three words to describe their generation at a slightly lower rate (77%, 66% and 52% respectively). But those numbers fall substantially when we come to generation x and the millennials:

“But only 12% of millennials and 26% of Generation X said they were patriotic; 24% of millennials and 43% of the Gen Xers said they were responsible; while 36% of millennials and 54% of Generation X said they were hard-working.”

One wonders whether the view that the younger generations have of themselves will change as they get older, or will they remain as self-critical as they currently are? The other thing that would be interesting is whether millennials see all of those adjectives as desirable traits in themselves? I would bet that many amongst the young might not see “patriotism” as a virtue, at least not to the same extent as the silent generation.

As for my views, do I think my generation is self-absorbed? Yes.

Do I think my generation is wasteful? Perhaps, although there is a growing “sustainability” movement which suggests that at least some of us want to break free of the consumer/throw-away culture.  

Do I think my generation is greedy? Probably yes. Although this study from Pew suggested otherwise

Do I think my generation is “hard-working”? Generally yes, I do.

Do I think my generation is “responsible”? Depends what you mean by responsible, but probably not.

Do I think my generation is “patriotic”? No, not really. But I believe many of my generation would see that as not necessarily a bad thing.

What do you think? How do you rate your own generational cohort?

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...