How Do Millennials Differ from Previous Generations?

The Story: In order to gain a better understanding of the Millenial generation, Glenn T. Stanton and Andrew Hess of Focus on the Family produced a report that “examines a number of important aspects of this current generation while comparing it with other recent generations of Americans.”

The Background: As the report notes, “Generational study and comparisons are important because they provide a smarter context for understanding one’s work to reach and assist present generations in developing thriving families and growing faiths. And to do this, one must have a realistic, reliable research-based picture of how these generations are changing and how they compare and contrast with one another, regardless of the story those findings might tell.” Stanton and Hess compiled their report based on government surveys, academic research, and independent survey data from the Pew Research Center.

The Takeaways: Some of the more interesting finding from the report include:

• Millennials include almost as many births as the original baby boom. They will become the largest generation of any living during the century.

• Millennials are less likely to be currently married as their parents at the same age married, but they express a strong desire to eventually marry.

• Millennials are less likely to have children than those of previous generations at the same age, but they are more likely to have a child out of wedlock.

• Millennials are markedly less likely to say a “religious life” is important to them compared with Xers, 43% vs. 53%. Silents and Boomers were 68% and 59%.

• Millennials were less likely to think about social problems, make efforts to conserve natural resources, be interested in or participate in government, voting, contacting their representatives, participate in demonstrations or boycotts or giving money to political causes.

  • Caleb T

    “Millennials were less likely to think about social problems, make efforts to conserve natural resources, be interested in or participate in government, voting, contacting their representatives, participate in demonstrations or boycotts or giving money to political causes.”

    As a millenial, this is the one I simplly cannot agree with. Conservatives may not see it this way, but anti-war, pro-gay, pro-privacy agendas, even if you don’t agree with them, should be categorized as caring for what they believe are social problems. I highly recommend The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer, which provides a deeper and somewhat more balanced findings.

    I also somewhat resent the overwhelming negativity of this study. Although there are a few bright spots (Parenting and Care for Elderly), there seems to be an idolization of past generations that permeates the study. Every generation has its own problems, and to present this generation as worse in every area in comparison to the previous generation is disingenuous.

    Again, I highly recommend the book The Millenials for a deeper, more balanced study which also provides tips for reaching out to the generation.

    • Joe Carter


      The report is based on rather solid social science. As the sociologist Christian Smith says, “The idea that today’s emerging adults are as a generation leading a new wave of renewed civic-mindedness and political involvement is sheer fiction. The fact that anyone ever believed that idea simply tells us how flimsy the empirical evidence that so many journalistic media stories are based upon is and how unaccountable to empirical reality high-profile journalism can be.”

  • jonathan

    “a smarter context for understanding one’s work to reach and assist present generations in developing thriving families and growing faiths”
    Really, are you really serious, since when does sociology aid the Holy Spirit in sanctification? When we resort to all kinds of stats and surveys we negate the Person of the Holy Spirit in regenerating the heart of sinful man. Please take the Bibles survey on All Humankind. They are sinful. Please take the Bibles response for all Humankin. They need a Saviour.

    • Benjamin H

      Jonathan, you’re making a false dilemma. It is wrong to think that either we work for sanctification or God works for sanctification but not both. God is working (John 5:17), and we are joining him in his work by the grace of God that works in us (1 Cor 15:10). We do well to arm ourselves – with Scripture, prayer, and even sociology – for this work.

      • Joe Carter

        Well said, Benjamin.

        • Jonathan

          oh We are so weak with Scripture and the Holy Spirit, that we need modern sociology to help the poor Spirit do the work he needs to do in us. What pyschology did in the pulpit and distort the Word of God, sociology did in evangelism. So now we resort to modern observation of man so we can accurate bring what to him? not the Gospel? the Gospel only requires a sinner, not his likes or dislikes. Man has not changed otherwise the Gospel Paul preached would be no use to us.
          Jesus was a street preacher, so was Paul. All this philosphizing about culture is just a classroom activity at most. And it is a blatant denial of the person, power and work of the Holy Spirit. You actually cannot add, inform, or improve the work he is doing.

  • Josiah

    I like how each generation thinks they are smarter than the other generations.

    • James Rednour

      Well, each generation has access to more knowledge than the previous generation, particularly in a day and age where the answer to virtually any question is a mouse-click away. Now what will this generation actually DO with that power? That’s another issue entirely.

      • Jonathan

        We must preach the Gospel, the Spirit will reach the peopele. In third world countries, Christians are street preaching depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. in America, Christians are busy strategizing depending on the awesome power of George Barna Surveys. Was nothing learned of the 25 years of Willowcreek???

        • Marc


          You are being really rude.

          No one is putting George Barna on a pedestal. Still, he has done some great research and has definitely opened the eyes of many American preachers regarding what the American culture was, is, and will become. We must acknowledge this.

          What did the Apostle Paul do with those at Mars Hill? He met them at their level. We must do the same. Granted, we cannot go overboard and turn evangelism into a mere game of strategy, but it does help to know what we are up against. Yes, there are street preachers in third world countries, but many of those very street preachers know their surroundings.

          Also, if I may be so bold: George Barna is doing the work thousands of Christians in America will not do, which is to get to know the world surrounding them. This does not mean we have to accept or embrace the world, but we would be foolish, at best, to not have at least an inkling of what our city/town is comprised of regarding spirituality, political views, etc.

          Please do not get me wrong. I admire your passion for the Lord and for seeking guidance from His Spirit. And, yet, I have seen many good men such as yourself use the name and power of the Holy Spirit as a safety blanket and buzz-word for everything that’s wrong with the Church. It never ends well.

          • Jonathan

            on a Pedestal? really , you just did, in fact, you put Barna as all Knowing “regarding what the American culture was, is, and will become” Ouch, that is idolatry. this is what i call the idolatry of culture. Im a born again believer, from hispanic background, no one came to me, dressed in a sombrero and trying to speak spanish, no one invited me to their Cinco de Mayo Church celebration, in fact it was one sermon on the doctrine of man preached by Paul Washer in Peru. It was the biblical doctrine of total depravity that put me on my knees, it was the exposition of the Word, the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating the heart. But no one inquired as to my likes or dislikes, my habits or my perspectives. I repudiate all kinds of strategies and programs because they are man made substitutes for what the Word has commanded us to do. It is sad that you have such a low view of the Holy Spirit. He is God and to denigrate him to a side bar experience or a note on your confession of faith is to deny his existence altogether. Make no mistake, its his work, his ministry, his power, his will and purpose, his calling of all believers to build Christ’s Church, I think we should bow down to see what is His plan and not usurp his place.

  • Ryan Fishel

    Just adding on another resource, for anyone interested. Peter Jones listed also about a ‘hundred comparisons, here:

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  • Dean P

    Not to be cynical but I’m going to be cynical. In my experience the two positive attributes listed here about millennials in #4 and # 5 only exist because of course millennialls are more likely to say they have better relationships with their parents compared with older generations. But it’s only because they were coddled by their Baby Boomer parents their whole lives, and told that they could do no wrong, and were given money when ever they were asked for it. And yes they are more likely to take care of their parents when they get older. But that’s only because they will still be living under the same roof of their parentsanyway. Why would they ever move out?

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