UMass Amherst Market Researchers Detect New Generational Cohort Emerging in Response to the Great Recession that Began in 2008

AMHERST, Mass. - Market researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say a new generational cohort is emerging from the group known as the Millennials and the change is coming in response to cataclysmic events that have occurred since 2008.

The Great Recession appears to be a defining moment for this group of younger Millennials, say the UMass researchers. The team includes Charles D. Schewe, professor of marketing, Kathleen Debevec and William D. Diamond, associate professors of marketing, and Thomas J. Madden, professor of marketing at the University of South Carolina. Their latest research finds that younger Millennials are beginning to exhibit different values on several dimensions than older Millennials, suggesting a splintering of the Millennial cohort and the potential emergence of a new cohort, a younger "entitlement" cohort.

Younger Millennials appear to be more pleasure-seeking and possessing a greater sense of entitlement than older Millennials, the team says. The severe economic downturn does not appear to have instilled the value of thrift and simplicity among younger Millennials, but rather the desire to enjoy life and make the most of it, the researchers say.

This may be because today’s late adolescents are more sheltered and removed from the economic realities of adulthood and they may be choosing to offset the effects of the bad economy by deciding to enjoy their life and satisfy their desires and not focus just on their economic needs, Schewe and his colleagues say.

They also say that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the national response to them don’t seem to be one of the long-lasting impact events for older Millennials. "Because that only happened in specific places - New York, Washington and Pennsylvania - places not all Americans identify with, it hasn’t had the same impact as the poor economy, which hits everyone, everywhere," Schewe says. "It seems that 9/11 was more of a television event, while the recession is a reality."

The concept of generational cohorts says that groups of people develop a different and distinct set of core values for their entire lifetime that are formed by so-called "coming-of-age experiences" that occur between the ages of 17 and 23, Schewe says. The "defining moments" often are dramatic: wars, political dislocations, assassinations or economic upheavals. The Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the turmoil of the Watergate scandal are examples. For the Millennials, the defining moment seems to be the wide-scale advent of the Internet in 1995. Many Millenial values today can be traced straight back to this lifestyle-changing event.
The Millenial generational cohort was born after 1981. They are the children of the Baby Boomers and the younger siblings of the Generation Xers. They are the largest cohort, numbering about 75 million, after the 78-80 million Boomers.

The values most strongly differentiating the younger and older Millennials were "piety" and "thrift." The new sub cohort of younger Millennials is less thrifty and more secular and sexually permissive than older Millennials, the researchers say. They are also less patriotic and less concerned about politics, sustainability, saving and making mistakes in life.

This would suggest that they have internalized the value of entitlement and are a new market segment with different values than those ascribed to Millennials. If the new job market for college graduates continues at its dismal pace, the soon-to-be graduates could very well return home to parents and languish in temporary jobs that do not produce a strong career path. Future research should also explore whether today’s non-college 20-year-olds, who are now in the workplace, "live for today" or whether they value thrift and living simply comparably to the older Millennials.

In general, the Millennials are identified as extremely techno-savvy and they believe their use of technology is what sets them apart from other generations. They have grown up with the Internet. They are characterized as ambitious and success driven, global in their perspective and very community-minded; they want to make a difference in the world. They are entrepreneurial and quite self-reliant. They are ethnically diverse and tend to accept diversity in their world. They also respect institutions and enjoy working with their friends as part of teams.