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Millennials balance hopeful aspirations and harsh economic realities

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Millennials value education and hard work, and they're willing to make sacrifices to get ahead, but coming of age during an historic economic downturn has severely impacted their lives.

  • Eighty-eight percent of Millennials recognize that hard work is an important factor to get ahead in life, but 78% are worried about having good-paying job opportunities.
  • Sixty-four percent would move to a different part of the country for a better job or access to better opportunities, and 63% would add an hour to their commute for a better job.

Millennials will be the most educated generation in US history, but they are not convinced that higher education will provide them the same leg-up on the path to prosperity that it guaranteed earlier generations.

  • Two-thirds of Millennials believe that having a great education is important to getting ahead in life, but less than half (49%) believe that, personally, the benefits of a college education will be worth the cost.
  • To obtain their educations, Millennials have taken on significant financial risk. Fifty-two percent of have or will have taken on student loan debt, and 43% believe that student debt has limited career options.

Millennials admire entrepreneurs and would consider starting a business—if they had the financial means.

  • Millennials overwhelmingly (78%) consider entrepreneurs successful, and 62% of Millennials have considered starting their own business.
  • The biggest obstacle keeping Millennials from starting their own business is money. Forty-two percent of Millennials lament that they don't have the financial means to start a business.

Conditioned and also shaken by the economic conditions when they entered the job market, Millennials are risk-averse and even conservative in their career choices.

  • A large plurality (44 percent) of Millennials believe the best way to advance their career is to climb the corporate ladder.
  • Even though 62 percent of Millennials have considered starting a business and 51% know someone who started or worked for a startup, only 22% believe entrepreneurship is the best way to advance their career.
  • Black women are the only Millennial demographic in which a plurality (39%) believe that starting their own business is best way to get ahead.

Millennials are risk-averse and even conservative in their career choices.

This generation is skeptical of the establishment, putting very little confidence in institutions, but remaining fiercely patriotic and supportive of a leading role for the United States in the world.

  • Millennials express low levels of confidence in nearly every American institution. Corporate America, governors, and the news media inspire the lowest levels of confidence, with only one-fifth of Millennials placing a lot or a great deal of stock in them.
  • Colleges and universities and the military are the only institutions of the 13 polled to garner the confidence of the majority of Millennials.
  • Millennials remain overwhelmingly patriotic – 84% agree that they are proud to be an American, with Hispanic men as the most group (91%).

Many Millennials want an investment and growth strategy from policymakers that can help improve their lot.

  • Sixty-four percent of Millennials believe public education should be a top priority for federal tax dollars, a consensus that holds across party lines.
  • Social Security and Medicare were the second-biggest priority, reflecting Millennials' concern about retirement. Seventy-four percent are worried that Social Security won't be there when they retire.


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