When it comes to when Millennials were born, everyone online has an opinion. So I might as well have one too, right? Most people I hear prattling on about “Millennials” don’t actually know many Millennials, don’t have a proven track record leading and influencing Millennials, and don’t have a misspent adulthood reading blogs, articles, and books on Millennials. I give myself an A+ in all three (that’s how it works, right?) and I felt entitled to my own opinion. So here’s a snapshot (a selfie?) of when we were born. Let’s get to the bottom of “When’s a Millennial?”
When’s a Millennial?
Millennials were born from 1982 to 2004. I’m an authority in such matters, so you can trust me.
If you Google Millennials, you’ll find out that they were born anywhere from 1357 to 2985. Okay, just kidding. Sort of. People are all over the map so I decided to solve this one once and for all. Starting with the all important question, who the heck named us “Millennials” to begin with? Because they get bragging and defining rights, as far as I’m concerned.
Millennial kickoff: 1982
Turns out generation experts Neil Howe and William Strauss coined the word “Millennial” and put the start date at 1982, because those born then and after would come of age in the new Millennium. Smarties.
Now, to address your objections.
Yes, there were early birds people born before 1982 that already had Millennial tendencies. Yes, there were people born after 1982 who still had Gen X hangovers tendencies. And yes, every generation has outliers lost in the middle who feel like they don’t belong to the generation they were born it.
It doesn’t matter.
It only takes 51% to establish a majority, after all. Any generational tendency might be true even if 49% of people born in that period don’t fit. If 49% of Millennials had green skin and 51% had purple, people could say, “Millennials as a generation tend to have purple skin.” That’s just how generations work. Sorry if you don’t feel like you belong – you’re still us.
The early 1980s saw a large shift in how people raised kids. Parents became overprotective in the extreme. Part of this was increased technology – bigger weapons, faster cars, more danger. Part of this was increased media – there were always wars, murders, disasters, but now you saw live footage in your living room every day of all the bad out there. Part of this was a revolt from the way they were raised; young Boomers and old Gen Xers weren’t coddled as kids, they grew up as latchkeys, half of them in divorced households with a busy single parent. They decided to raise their kids differently – they were going to be there for everything and provide them everything.
So 1982 is as good a year as any – this is when we really started seeing kids raised differently (and over-protectively) on a massive scale across the nation.
Millennial finale: 2004
The end date chosen by Strauss and Howe is fairly fitting as well.
Some pontificate on how Millennials end somewhere in the mid-90s. But, no generation is that short. And, nothing really happened to change parenting attitudes or how we as a society raise and educate children in the mid-90s. Kids born in 1998 are just like kids born in 1992. Except they carried CD players instead of Walkmans.
Any start/end date will be somewhat arbitrary, but the chosen date needs to coincide with a change in child-raising, otherwise kids being born would have the same old attitudes and tendencies. Something has to change in upbringing to affect how they turn out – something that makes them turn out strikingly different from what came before yet strikingly similar to each other.
2004 is sandwiched between two major events that did change how we raise kids.
In 2001, the 9/11 attacks shocked the nation. We all remember where we were when the Twin Towers fell – it was our generation’s JFK assassination, our generation’s Challenger moment. While many of our parents in the 80s and 90s sought to provide us with unbridled opportunity in addition to abundant material possession and smothering affection, many parents in the 2000s started to temper that with more caution – being simply “overprotective” doesn’t cut it in a world where work isn’t even safe. It’s a terrifying world we live in; and that terror is here, not just “over there” as seen through our televisions.
On the other side of the 2004 end date, the 2008 financial crisis. One way to look at it, if you’re too young to remember how the 2008 collapse affected your childhood, you might not be a Millennial anymore. In the aftermath, 5 trillion dollars in pensions, real estate value, 401k, savings, and bonds evaporated. 8 million Americans lost their jobs, 6 million lost their homes. The loss of savings, loss of jobs, loss of retirements, loss of homes drastically affects the way a nation raises its kids.
But also, where it places its trust.
In a lot of ways, 9/11 made us look outward with distrust, it made us feel insecure even in our overprotective homes. 2008 made us look inward the same way. The current environment of anti-institution (don’t trust media, banks, colleges, government, police forces, scientists… dare I say, churches?) emerged from these two events, book-ending the transition from one generation to the next. Those who came of age around 9/11 and those who were old enough to remember how 2008 affected their communities were forged in the same fire.
We’ll have plenty more articles down the road on Millennials as well as observations of how they differ from what came before and what’s coming next. Until then, thanks for reading! You now know who we mean when we say “Millennials.” If you want to know more about what we mean when we say “Rogues,” check here: