Defining Millennial

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Millennials, like baby boomers, are a group defined by their birth dates. A "millennial" refers to someone who was born after 1980. More specifically, Millennials are those born between 1977 and 1995 or 1980 and 2000, depending on who is writing about this generation at the moment.

Also referred to as Generation Y, Generation Why, Generation Next, and Echo Boomers, this group is quickly taking over the American workforce. As of 2016, nearly half of the country's employees fall between the ages of 20 and 44 years old.

Estimated at 80 million, millennials outnumber baby boomers (73 million) and Generation X (49 million).

How Millennials Grew Up

The nickname "Generation Why" refers to the questioning nature of millennials. They have been taught to not take everything at face value but to really understand the reason why something is. An increase in available information thanks to the internet has only fueled this desire.

Some of this is due to the fact that this is the first generation to have grown up entirely with computers. Even many born in those disputed years of 1977 to 1981 had their first interactions with computers in elementary school. Technology has played a great role in their lives and it progressed quickly as they grew up. For this reason, Millennials are at the forefront of all things tech.

Raised during "The Decade of the Child," Millennials also benefitted from greater parental attention than in generations past. Quite often, this included fathers who were more involved in their children's lives. Their childhoods have influenced their understanding of gender roles in the home and the workplace as well as their future expectations.

The Desire for Meaningful Work

Millennials are expected to create a cultural shift in the workplace. Already, Millennials have expressed a desire to pursue work that is personally meaningful. They tend to resist corporate hierarchy and are accustomed to getting work done in a variety of environments—not simply sitting at their desks. 

Flexible scheduling is of great appeal to millennials who place a high value on work-life balance. Many companies are following this trend by providing an employee-centered workplace that is flexible in both place and time.

This generation is also changing the traditional approach to management. Millennials are known as multitasking team players who thrive on encouragement and feedback. Companies that can appeal to these attributes often see great gains in productivity.

Millennials Are Closing the Wage Gap

The millennials may also be the generation that closes the gender wage gap by the time they retire. Although women typically earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, among the millennials that gap is closing tighter. 

Every year since 1979, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a report on the annual average of women's earnings compared to that of men. In 1979, women earned just 62.3 percent of what men did and by 2015, that reached 81.1 percent.

In that same 2015 report, women in the millennial generation were earning as much, if not more, on average each week than older women. This trend shows a significant increase in skilled labor jobs that have opened up for women in the workforce. It also tells us that millennial women are competing more and more with their male counterparts in a technologically-driven society.


  • "Highlights of women's earnings in 2015." November 2016. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor.
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Lowen, Linda. "Defining Millennial." ThoughtCo, Aug. 16, 2021, Lowen, Linda. (2021, August 16). Defining Millennial. Retrieved from Lowen, Linda. "Defining Millennial." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).