“I was born in 1988,” says 26-year-old Alex Perez, scrolling through his Instagram feed as he smothers his Chipotle burrito with Sriracha. “Growing up, I was told that if I worked hard and took on massive student loan debt, I’d be able to get a job. It was a real wakeup call when I graduated college and the economy was in tatters.”
Like many in his generation, Perez is a millennial. Born between the years 1982 and 2000, these digital natives grew up online and plugged in. They are comfortable forgoing their privacy for a sweet avatar and working for the promise of future employment instead of traditional centralized currency.
But as millennials enter the workforce, some worry that they are entitled, narcissistic, and lazy. Pop star Taylor Swift typifies the millennial mentality, boldly naming her latest album, “1989,” after the year of her birth.
“Millennials are different from previous generations because they were born between the years 1982 and 2000,” Princeton University chronologist Dr. Robin McNeil says. “In the past, people were born in years like 1956, 1933, 1972, 1648, 240 BC, 1390, or even 1981. Today, kids were born in years like 1982, 1987, and 1996.”
The millennial generation came of age during the pyrrhic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saw their country torture scores of innocent people with no repercussions, and graduated college during a historic recession caused by a deregulated financial industry that decimated the job market and left many Americans questioning the very foundations of their society. But what really makes millennials stand out is that fact that they were born in the years chronologically following 1981.
Just take Julie Coopersmith. Born in 1991 — a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar and the 991st year of the 2nd millennium — Coopersmith is an expert at multitasking. She alternates between sipping a kale smoothie and playing a game on her iPhone.
“It’s a nice distraction from the fact that the American dream — or even modest financial stability — is out of reach for most Americans,” she says. “One in four American children live in poverty, the US has one quarter of the world’s prison population, and I have an abscess in my mouth because my employer doesn’t cover dental and I have $80,000 in student loan debts to pay off. But it’s okay. I just cracked the Pudding Pagoda level of Candy Crush!”
“It’s only going to get worse,” Dr. McNeil says. “Eventually, kids will be born in 2016, 2024, and maybe even 2050.”
Despite her concerns, Dr. McNeil remains optimistic about the future.
“There are a couple of scenarios that could play out,” she says. “If the cost of living continues to rise while real wages fall, millennials might not be able to afford having children. Alternately, if we keep overheating the planet and squandering our finite natural resources, maybe we’ll all just die.”