IOP Studies the Millennial Generation

Today’s young Americans ages 18 to 29 are more racially diverse than any generation before them, more likely to be unemployed than those older than them, and more politically active than young people of the recent past, according to an ambitious new study co-sponsored by Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

At the same time, half of the so-called millennial generation do not vote, and more than 40 percent believe their vote does not matter in a broken Washington.

“Millennials are participating in politics—we can see that. But they’re not really participating in governing,” IOP Director C.M. “Trey” Grayson ’94 said. “So for us, that’s probably the next step. We’ve learned how to promote political engagement, so how do we promote governmental engagement?”

The findings are part of a new index of civic engagement which aims to account for broad educational, economic, and other demographic differences among the country’s 46 million millenials.

Among a broad range of findings, the index showed that, though 62.9 percent of young people are employed, 31.2 percent of those people are only working on a part-time basis.

Those with more education are more likely to be civically engaged, though not necessarily more socially cohesive, according to the study.

Millennials, who comprised just over 21 percent of the eligible voting population during last November’s election, favored President Barack Obama by more than 20 points—a margin large enough to tip the electoral contest in his favor.

“Americans 18 to 29 made a big difference in the 2012 presidential election, but at the same time, only half of them showed up,” said Matthew E. Warshauer ’14, chair emeritus of the IOP’s Public Opinion Project.

The unprecedented report is the combined effort of four national research organizations focused on civic participation—the National Conference on Citizenship, Mobilize.org, the Tufts-based Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, and the IOP.

“The goal of this report was really to bring together all the knowledge of these different groups to really understand millennial engagement, and, based on that understanding,... use this information to build a stronger civic foundation among Americans 18 to 29,” Warshauer said.

The partnership represents a broadening of focus for the IOP, which has traditionally dedicated most of its research efforts to conducting a biannual political survey of young voters.

The IOP did issue a civic engagement index similar to the new report last spring, but that project was limited to the state of Massachusetts.

“We’ve earned a really strong reputation for our understanding of the millennials with the surveys we do every semester, so we really want to be able to go beyond just the survey,” Grayson said.

—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at nicholasfandos@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.

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