Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from a recent research report written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. For information on how you can subscribe to his institutional research email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The surprise victory of 28-year-old Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is drawing attention to the lack of generational diversity in Congress, particularly among Democrats. While the average age of Republican leaders is 59.5, the average among Democratic leaders is safely in retirement-age territory: 74.6. (The Washington Post)
Neil Howe: Brace yourself, America, for Millennial leaders who unabashedly label themselves "socialist" (see: "Did You Know? Millennials Not Content to Be Capitalists"). Prepare as well for a new generation of working-class heroes (and heroines) who speak softly but carry a radical agenda. The unnoticed irony is that Joseph Crowley (born in 1961, barely an Xer), the incumbent defeated by Ocasio-Cortez, is by far the youngest of the Democrats' four top House leaders. The other three all belong to the Silent Generation: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (born in 1940), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (born in 1939), and Assistant Minority Leader Tim Clyburn (born in 1940). Indeed, leading the Democrats in Congress are quite a few politicians who can recall World War II as kids. In the House, you've got Nita Lowry (81) at Appropriations and Maxine Waters (80) at Financial Services. In the Senate, there's Pat Leahy at Appropriations, Diane Feinstein at Narcotics, and Bernie Sanders at Budget--average age, roughly 80. As we've been noticing for a while (see: "Incoming Gen Xers Carry the Midterms," back in 2014), the congressional GOP has been rejuvenating in recent elections thanks to a strongly Republican tilt of incoming late-wave Boomers and first-wave Gen Xers. Democrats on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, remain dominated by an aging cadre of Silent and first-wave Boomers. As a result, while the congressional leadership is aging on both sides of the aisle, it is aging much faster for the Democrats (average leadership age, 74.6, with 35.5 years of tenure) than for the Republicans (average leadership age, 59.5, with 18.0 years of tenure). When the demographic dam bursts--which is very likely to happen over the next two or three elections--expect Millennials to do a makeover of the Democratic party nationwide.
2. Young kids today are better at delaying gratification than earlier generations of children as measured by the famous “marshmallow test.” Self-control and regulation have been hallmarks of the Homelander experience—which runs counter to the common notion that kids’ attention spans are shortening. (American Psychological Association)
NH: Ask Americans today (the authors of this study do just this) whether kids today have less impulse control than they used to, and most Americans will overwhelmingly agree. Ask most pop psychologists about "Generation Z," and they will tell you that "shorter attention spans" and "more impulsive" are among their salient traits--compared with the generations of their parents and grandparents. It turns out that public and pop psychologists are both dead wrong. Welcome back to another follow-up study of the famous Stanford marshmallow test (see: "Children Get Better at Delaying Gratification"). This definitive study, written by a research team headed by Walter Mischel, the creator of the original Stanford experiment in the late 1960s, summarizes repetitions of the marshmallow test in subsequent years all the way up to the present day. (In case you need reminding, researchers test how long small children refrain from eating a marshmallow for the sake of a future reward when they are left alone in a closed room.) The results show that successive cohorts of kids are waiting longer to get the reward. For example, only 12% of today's kids eat the marshmallow in the first 30 seconds (versus 29% of young Boomers) and fully 57% are waiting the full ten minutes (versus only 31% of young Boomers). This improvement holds for all races, ethnicities, regions, and genders. See our overview piece, "Kids These Days: Homelanders."
3. A whopping 86% of Millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work for an organization that shares their values, compared to just 9% of Boomers. While salary and benefits still rank high in importance, young employees expect their workplaces to reflect who they are. (LinkedIn)
NH: The topic is interesting, but the study can't really be evaluated since LinkedIn is not publicizing its data. From what little LinkedIn discloses, however, it seems that "values" is not a very useful way to frame the generational difference. In fact, per this study, what Millennials want most in their workplace is strong leadership and a well-defined sense of purpose, along with a culture of belonging--that is, a group orientation. On the other hand, Millennials are less likely to quit a job just because their boss asks them to do something unethical. (Boomers come in first here.)
4. Support for an active U.S. foreign policy agenda declines moving down the age ladder—but that doesn’t mean younger generations want to disengage. Instead, Xers and Millennials want to engage differently; they support global commerce and international cooperation, but are far less concerned about maintaining military power. (Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
NH: Big takeaways from this study: Millennials are less supportive than older generations of more defense spending or of American exceptionalism in the world. They are, however, little different in their support of existing U.S. alliances and even more supportive of going to war for "humanitarian reasons." Their disinterest in exceptionalism may actually be compatible with Trump's version of isolationism, which is premised on the notion that America today has to look out for itself "like any other nation does." Will this isolationism persist? Maybe not. Millennials are more interested than older generations in how America is doing economically relative to the rest of the world--and how well all nations are supporting principled global causes like policies to end global warming. Push those buttons, perhaps, and Millennials could become aggressive globalists.