Good news about young adults in the United States: research shows that their top priority is being a good parent. In the latest Pew Report on the Millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) 52 per cent of them chose that over owning a home (20 per cent), having a high-paying career (15 per cent) and becoming famous (1 per cent) as the most important thing in their lives.

Unfortunately, some of the aspiring parents put it far ahead of having a successful marriage (only 30 per cent) — not to mention living a very religious life (15 per cent). How do they think they can be good parents without a good marriage?

One explanation for their naivety is this: “Only about six-in-ten were raised by both parents — a smaller share than was the case with older generations,” says the report. And they are not rushing to say “I do”:

Just one-in-five Millennials (21%) are married now, half the share of their parents’ generation at the same stage of life. About a third (34%) are parents, according to the Pew Research survey. We estimate that, in 2006, more than a third of 18 to 29 year old women who gave birth were unmarried. This is a far higher share than was the case in earlier generations.

Last week Pew reported that this generation are– to no-one’s surprise — “the least overtly religious American generation in modern times.”

One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29. Yet not belonging does not necessarily mean not believing. Millennials pray about as often as their elders did in their own youth.

[Their] beliefs about life after death and the existence of heaven, hell and miracles closely resemble the beliefs of older people today. Though young adults pray less often than their elders do today, the number of young adults who say they pray every day rivals the portion of young people who said the same in prior decades.

By and large Pew finds these young people “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change”.

They embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online. Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more). Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe — about six times the share of older adults who’ve done this. But their look-at-me tendencies are not without limits. Most Millennials have placed privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And 70% say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing.

Here’s a little mystery: fully 37 per cent of them are unemployed or out of the workforce (around 40 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds were in college in 2008) but 90 per cent of them say they have enough money and expect to meet their financial goals.

They get along well with their parents. Actually, they need to, because one in eight have boomeranged back to their parents roof during the recession. (Part of the secret of having enough money, no doubt.) But they seem to really value family:

They respect their elders. A majority say that the older generation is superior to the younger generation when it comes to moral values and work ethic. Also, more than six-in-ten say that families have a responsibility to have an elderly parent come live with them if that parent wants to. By contrast, fewer than four-in-ten adults ages 60 and older agree that this is a family responsibility.

There are other interesting observations about the Millennials in the latest report. What is encouraging is that they seem less ideological than elders and betters and more open to new ideas — some of which may be old, but new to them.

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet