There are so many terms for each specific generation: baby boomers, generation X, generation Y, millennials, and generation Z are some of the more common ones. Because of the number of terms for these generations, many may question which title belongs to which generation. In this specific article, we're defining millennials and generation Y.
Are millennials and generation Y the same? When referring to the group known as millennials, we are talking about those born between the years 1981 and 1996. Since those born within the same years are also called generation Y, yes, these two names refer to the same group.
However, even with this distinction, a few sources claim that the groups are two entirely different entities. What is it that makes some say they are the same and one or two others claim they are not? Simply put, generations are not defined by any one official party. Analysis of the two terms and the claims made in regard to each will allow for a more clarified conclusion.
There are very few people living today that are unfamiliar with the term “millennials.” Although different sources claim different birth years, most attribute the years 1981 to 1996 as the years that millennials were born. This span of birth years was defined as the millennials’ time by Pew Research Center.
Niel Howe and William Strauss defined millennials as those born between 1982 and 2004. Although these two are credited for coining the term “millennials,” most follow the years outlined by Pew Research. The term was coined because the generation in question remembers growing up in the new millennium, the year 2000.
Pew Research continues to study millennials and trends stemming from the generation. The generation is known for their technology use and understanding, extreme love of avocado, and an absurd amount of student loan debt. While these few attributes are just a few of the many qualities most millennials possess, they are frequent punchlines in social media memes and jokes. These qualities, however, in no way define the entire population of the generation.
Recent headlines indicate that the majority of millennials find importance in voting and taking part in politics, are more educated, slower in developing their own households than previous generations, and are the largest group in the workforce. Given that millennials are anywhere from 22 to 38 years old at this current moment in time, it is safe to assume that not all people in this generation fit those generalizations. It simply means that a good number of the generation fits those descriptors.
Consider some statistics regarding millennials: almost half of the generation are influenced to purchase a product if it is for a good cause, 56% are most usually the first to try new technology and 69% desire adventure. While these statements could be said for individuals in any generation, the millennial generation has an overwhelming amount of people that feel the truth of these statements, especially given that the group accounts for nearly 25% of the population.
Statistics are fun and interesting, but what's the point of this information? Understanding what the largest group in the population wants is crucial to finding success in business. For example, we know that 22 to 38 year olds value supporting good causes. If a company were to donate 10% of every purchase to feeding the hungry, millennials would be far more likely to purchase from this company rather than the one with a similar product that supports no cause.
We also know that the generation is one willing to try new technological advancements. Because of this, marketing should be geared towards this age group. 22 to 38 year olds are not likely to shy away from something new or potentially challenging. With millennials as a target market, you are far more likely to get a new product off the ground if marketing is geared towards them specifically.
Since we understand a millennial’s desire for adventure, zip-lining and similar activities are becoming more and more popular. Creating outlets for adventure are thriving and will likely continue to do so as millennials choose family vacations and activities. Businesses that desire success should focus on both the millennial market and employing the same types of people. (We have written a related article - What You Need to Know About Millennials)
Despite the confusion with the birth years of millennials, the same stereotypes and statistics remain, no matter which slight difference in years is used. For many, having been born in the questioned years is decided upon personal feelings. Simply put, most individuals born in 1981 relate more to generation x when he or she has an older sibling in that generation. If the sibling was born in 1976, it is unlikely that the two siblings’ experiences differed enough to be considered two different generations.
Differing generations are defined by their experiences and belief systems in addition to their general age. Defining millennials is easy: the majority of internet searches use the term “millennials.” In fact, in the state of Wyoming, 96% of searches on the topic used that term. That leaves 4% using the term “generation Y.” On the flip side, Hawaii uses “generation Y” far more than any other state, but even that is only 20%. Are these terms truly interchangeable? Unfortunately, defining Gen Y is far more complicated.
Like millennials, generation Y causes confusion when it comes to birth years. One source, Ad Age, claims that the birth years for generation y are from 1981 to 1994. This claim is almost exact to the years widely accepted for millennials as defined by Pew Research. However, another source (GenHQ) claims generation Y was born between 1977 and 1995.
Despite the slight difference in age, the years defined for both millennials and generation y are so similar it is hard to dispute the similarities. Google defines a generation as, “all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively.” Given that the official definition identifies these groups as being born at about the same time, it is safe to assume that the exact years are irrelevant.
If gen y individuals were born between ‘81 and ‘94, their current ages would be between 22 and 36 years. The other birth years provided by GenHQ vary a bit, given that the ages range from 23 to 42. Since these ages are relatively similar, it is safe to assume that generation y consists of approximately the same group.
Although there is some information on generation Y, a standard Google search turns up very little on the term. However, it is clear that Google believes gen y to be synonymous with millennials. Other names for this generation include echo boomers, iGen, net generation, and the internet generation.
The other names have been given to the generation for their own reasons. An echo boomer is the child of a baby boomer. iGen is a term that can mean a specific portion of Generation Y or Generation Z, as it refers to those born in the mid-90s to early 2000s. Net Generation is the group born between ‘82 and ‘91; the term comes from the mass amounts of technology these people were introduced to as they've gotten older. Finally, perhaps the most self-explanatory, is the internet generation, which describes those that have grown up with the internet.
With such little information available on generation y, and what is available determining it synonymous with millennials, it is safe to classify the two terms as the same thing. Since this determination has been made, facts regarding millennials are true for generation y as well.
If you were to scroll through a news website or popular publication, chances are you'd come across an article or two with 'millennials’ in the headline. In most cases, these headlines are comedic and not taken seriously. Articles like “Millennials aren't eating cereal because it's too much work” and “Millionaire to Millennials: Stop buying avocado toast if you want to buy a home” have run in Death and Taxes and Time magazine.
Although entertaining, these headlines are not all-encompassing descriptors of millennials. There are plenty of people within the generation that love cereal and dislike avocado. The stereotypes surrounding the generation are just that: stereotypes. Perhaps some more concrete, statistical headlines would offer an insight into generation y. (We have written a related article - Millennials and Workplace Flexibility (What Should Employers do to Attract Millennials to Their Company?)
“Young adult households are earning more than most older Americans did at the same age” and “Millennials, Gen X increase their ranks in the house, especially among Democrats” are just two headlines found on Pew Research that indicate factual information. In the short, yet informational blurb written about the headline, not only are numbers and facts provided, but there is a lack of opinion laced in the writing. When generalizing an entire group of people, fact-based information is the best route.
Getting the facts for 25% of the population is difficult. For instance, what is the sample size used in making fact-based claims about the generation? According to the United States Census Bureau, generation y accounts for 83.1 million people in the United States. Producing facts based on the actions and opinions of 83.1 million people would require a large-reaching survey. This is why surveys and data come from a sample size.
As a millennial myself, I have never been asked questions regarding my feelings on avocado, cereal, and politics. I love avocado, but not to the point where I don't own my house. I find cereal to be quick and easy, despite what appears to be the beliefs if other millennials. I also spend very little time with politics. It seems that the generation y stereotypes vary a bit, as the above headlines indicate that I should love avocado, find cereal too difficult, and have mostly Democrat involvement and opinions in politics.
While facts can be viewed to determine the love of avocado, such as how many sell today compared to how many were sold when previous generations did the majority of the grocery shopping, the question that stands is who in the generation finds cereal too much work? Although this seems like a silly question, it makes one wonder where the stats came from to reach that conclusion.
Despite the fact that millennials are a highly ridiculed group of people, there are a number of facts that should be noted. For instance, around 35% of gen Y individuals are entrepreneurs in that they have a side business in order to increase their income. Another positive quality is that 63% of millennials desire for their place of work to donate to social causes, whereas only 50% of previous generations wanted the same.
Individuals in Generation Y also have a commonality in collaborating. A good majority of people between the ages of 22 and 38 focus on developing working relationships with coworkers, creating friendships, and effectively communicating. (We have written a relates article - 25 Things Millennials Want from an Employer (Company, Workplace, and Job Expectations)). This makes millennials great employees in the 21st century. Collaborating enhances salesmanship and creativity, making the generation great for a number of careers. (We have written a related article - 25 Things Millennials Want From a Workplace (How to Attract & Retain Millennials))
Although difficult to obtain a real number, the headlines surrounding millennials tend to focus on the negative. Statistics show that many of the facts regarding the generation are positive. By remembering that the generation spans several years, it is easier to consider the fact that while 63% believe in their employers giving to a cause, 37% do not. Being realistic is crucial to understanding statistics regarding the entire generation.
The original question posed was Are Millennials and Generation Y the same? While the answer ultimately revealed that yes, Millennials and Generation Y are the same, there are a few fluctuations in opinion regarding years. Despite this, there is no further evidence suggesting that the two titles are describing separate groups.
What are the most common names of each defined generation? Beginning prior to 1945 was the Traditionalist Generation, followed by the Baby Boomers. Generation X came next. Millennials followed Gen X and Generation Z is the most recently identified group.
Is there a large difference in the working habits of Baby Boomers and Millennials? Baby Boomers are accustomed to working at a job as long as possible in order to have complete stability. Millennials, however, attempt to work in jobs that will provide more experience to their actual career goals. This might mean leaving a job a few years into it in order to take a position more closely aligned with their goals.
How are Millennials different from Generation Z? Where Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers, Gen Z individuals were raised by Gen X. This distinction has led to a number of differences, including risk-taking, jobs, and even favorite social media app.
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