Millennials And Baby Boomers Aren’t Really At War With Each Other But It Sometimes Feels Like It

The division between the Baby Boomer generation and Generation Y (Millennials) is the most important generational gap to date in American history.

But how are they different and why is there a so-called tension between the two generations?

Jim Tankersley explains this phenomenon in the Washington Post

“Boomers soaked up a lot of economic opportunity without bothering to preserve much for the generations to come. They burned a lot of cheap fossil fuels, filled the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases, and will probably never pay the costs of averting catastrophic climate change or helping their grandchildren adapt to a warmer world.”

His article clearly identifies the qualities of the Baby Boomer generation that have contributed to the animosity that the rest of the country feels, and detriments to the economy are at the forefront of that anger.

The Economy’s downfall:

This is a frequent criticism of the Baby Boomer generation that has fueled the tension between them and younger generations, especially their children’s generation, Millennials.

Often, Generation Y is accused of being poor spenders and even worse savers; but with high tuition rates and a small job market, how can anyone save money?

Economic writer Michael Snyder references a recent survey that found, “that 47 percent of all Millennials are using at least half of their paychecks to pay off debt”.

Boomers who accuse Millennials of being lazy and poor are underestimating the fundamental difference that made their young adult life far easier than Generation Y’s, and that was a booming economy.

When the Baby Boomers began working, wages were higher and jobs were accessible with or without a degree.

Tankersely also explains “The typical U.S. household headed by someone who was 25 to 29 years old in 1975 saw its real income increase by 60 percent until it peaked and began to slowly decline before retirement”.

Compare that to Millennials, and Tankersely states, “For the 2001 group, the peak was just over 20 percent higher”.

So clearly, any economic agreement made between these two generations can be attributed to the conditions of the economy and less to do with drive or a motivation to work.

Photo Credit: MSLGROUP Global/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: MSLGROUP Global/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

However, there is something to say for the ways in which Millennials view work that is unique from other generations.

Life Goals:

A recent Gallup poll explained, “In addition to finding steady, engaging jobs, millennials want to have high levels of well-being, which means more than being physically fit. Yes, millennials want to be healthy, but they also want a purposeful life, active community and social ties, and financial stability.”

Millennials travel far more than any other generation, they do not jump right into any career, and they are the most diverse generation to date.

According to CNN, there are 76 million Baby Boomers, and 72 percent of them are white.

It then demonstrates that out of the 87 million Millennials, only 56 percent are white. Their multiculturalism makes them connected to the world beyond their niche and job, and allows them to move far and often.

Due to the nature of the Internet and the ability to access information with a touch of a button, Millennials have a different kind of motivation and connectedness to the world.

This difference of involvement has unfortunately resulted in a more severe lack of involvement in politics than any other generation when they were young.

Political Involvement:

Though the Internet is a tool, it has also decreased Millennial’s attention spans. That is why news outlets that write quick and fast articles are the most successful amongst this generation.

While Millenials news feeds are clouded with dozens of list form articles and short abbreviated news reports, Baby Boomers are reading more traditional news outlets that cater more directly to a political side.

There isn’t a clear answer as to which form is better or worse, but it is clear, that due to the condensed and diluted nature of these shorter articles, and a lack of political involvement, Millennials are perceived to be less informed on political or social issues.

Boomers will accuse Millennials of failing to congregate for any political protests, (Occupy Wall Street was unfortunately a poor example for Generation Y).

However, Millennials see the world through a computer, which allows them to access more of the world all at once as opposed to congregating over one issue at a time. That is a lot of power that the generation hasn’t fully discovered how to handle.

Secondly, what is often overlooked is what the Boomer generation was able to ban together and protest about, and that is the Vietnam War and the first media coverage through television broadcasts.

True, Millennials weren’t out on the streets protesting the Iraq war, but the majority of them weren’t at risk of fighting due to a lack of a draft. This is a sad reality, but without the personal threat such as what Baby Boomers experienced in 1969, a generation is less likely to oppose military involvement.

It isn’t fair to compare the ways in which Millennials protest injustice to how Baby Boomers did. Baby Boomers didn’t have the Internet; they had their voices in the streets; that was their tool.

Today, Millennials see thousands of posts on Twitter or Facebook exclaiming the injustices of the world and a dire need to improve these issues. They are extremely aware of the fatal state of the environment, and they are making noise about these things.

However, they are doing it in places where Baby Boomers do not go.

So is there really a fight between the generations? Of course not; and that’s because neither generation interacts in the same outlets.

If anything Baby Boomers are resented for causing so much damage to the environment and the economy, but Millennials lack of involvement in politics keeps Baby Boomers in control of the system and disengages any kind of battle between the two generations.

In his Washington Post piece Tankersley says, [if Baby Boomers want to improve the country], “They should take steps, right now, to reduce carbon emissions and head off a debt crisis. They should pay higher taxes or accept slimmer retirement benefits, and they should tell lawmakers to make cleaner energy a top priority.”

In any case, it isn’t accurate to pair these generations against each other because much of Millennials’ characteristics come from what their parents, (the Baby Boomers) taught them.

If you break the world and leave the clean up to your children, don’t give them a medal just for participating on a soccer team, it will make them narcissistic, and it will hinder individual drive.

Instead, teach them to use the voice you used in the streets, but to take advantage of the new tools they have to make that voice louder.

Baby Boomers should ignite a fire for their children to blaze through, they should support them, not criticize them for an economy and a job market that they did not cause.

They should view the millennial culture and Internet usage as a tool to more frequently talk about large issues on a global scale.

Yes, Baby Boomers’ parents hated rock and roll, and now our parents hate rap, but there isn’t a war between the two, just disagreements and different experiences.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Vincent Albanese/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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About the Author
Michele is a Senior Literature major at the University of Colorado Boulder. Michele is especially interested in multiculturalism in current literature. Her other interests include music, especially bluegrass and classic rock and hiking and camping in her home state, Colorado.

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