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Show a Little Pride, Millennials

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Perhaps the best part of being a millennial -- aside from the constant news-media attention -- is being a member of a team. We're a big group, millions of snake people, coiled together as we're adored and bemoaned and analyzed and seduced. Our squad is powerful. And exclusive: We're no longer accepting new members.

So why is our team spirit so low?

"Despite the size and influence of the Millennial generation," states a Pew Research Center report released today, "most of those in this age cohort do not identify with the term 'Millennial.'"

Come again?

In a U.S. survey conducted in March and April, only 4 of 10 millennials -- defined by Pew as those 18-34 -- described themselves as such. Members of the Baby Boom generation (ages 51-69) were much more likely to embrace their moniker (79 percent). Affiliation was even notably higher (58 percent) among the group that Pew has called "America's neglected 'middle child'" -- Generation X (ages 35-50). Apparently, neglect breeds affinity: 33 percent of millennials identified as Gen X. More worrisome, about 5 percent of millennials said that they considered themselves members of the Silent generation (ages 70-87), presumably enabling them to complain about "kids these days" with uncanny expertise.

But a penchant for self-criticism is not limited to that prematurely geriatric 5 percent: "Millennials, in particular, stand out in their willingness to ascribe negative stereotypes to their own generation," notes the report. Fifty-nine percent of millennials said their generation is "self-absorbed"; 43 percent think it’s "greedy," and 31 percent said "cynical." Meanwhile, only 36 percent of millennials described their cohort as "hard-working," 24 percent as "responsible" and 17 percent as "moral." Pew didn't ask about "honesty," but I'd like to think millennials would have scored well -- looking at you, 77 percent of self-described "hard-working" baby boomers.

Of course, most millennials still have a long stretch ahead, and there's a chance that we'll age well. Pew points out that some differences in how generations view themselves "may be related more to age and life stage than to the unique characteristics of today’s generations." Give us some kids and mortgages, and we'll start extolling our responsibility.

Nor should millennials be the only group worried by this report: According to Pew, only 56 percent of American adults have even heard of the millennial generation. If that's not a sign of the death of journalism, I don't know what is.

As a millennial journalist who writes about millennials, I'm going silent. 

  1. Be especially mindful of the polling margin of error here: 5.4 percentage points for the millennial group, according to Pew.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net