Millennials (or Generation Y) are currently the youngest adult age grouping used in generational analysis of data. With some minor variations, they are defined as those born in the year 1980 and onwards; for example, Pew Research Center defines them as those born in 1981 and after. Ipsos defines millennials as those born 1980-1995.
As a generational cohort, their outlook on life and preferences have been shaped by growing up in an environment very different to their parents, characterised by the emergence and growth of the internet, along with rapidly changing social attitudes. Typically, the term "millennial" has greater applicability in established markets, most notably the US, UK and western Europe, as the experiences of those born after 1980 in these countries are the most similar.
Millennials' influence in society has grown with the size of their generation. For instance, in 2015 they became the largest generation in the US workforce, with 75.4 million Millennial workers compared to 74.9 million in Generation X (Pew 2015), and they are an increasing proportion of the market for many goods and services – Forbes Magazine estimated that US Millennials alone will have $200bn in spending power by 2017 (Forbes 2015). As a result, they are a key interest group for many clients, and a lot of research and thought pieces claim to reveal their preferences and tastes.
The Ipsos Point of View explores the myths and realities of the Millennial Generation, posing the key questions that any generational analysis will need to address:
- Is the observed millennial difference cohort-based (unique to this generation), or age-based (true of all young people, regardless of generation)?
- How do Millennials compare to Generation X in the nineties, when Gen X were the age Millennials are now?
- How do older millennials differ from younger millennials? A number of classifications split Millennials into smaller groups, often according to how "digitally native" their formative experiences were.
Whilst there is a broad consensus on when the Millennial generation started, there is less agreement on when it ends. Whilst some organisations currently do not define an end-date for the Millennial generation, others have argued that a new generation (tentatively called "Generation Z") began between 1995 and 2000 (Pew, McCrindle). The Ipsos definition for Generation Z is those born from 1996 onwards. It will be some years before the characteristics of this next generation can be defined, as whenever the generational cut-off is set, the majority of this generation are aged under 18 and so are currently excluded from most quantitative research.
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