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7 Ways Millennials’ Lives Are Different from their Grandparents’ When They Were Young

If you are a young adult, you probably realize, intuitively, that your life is a lot different than your grandparents’ when they were your age. But do you know what those big differences are?

The Pew Research Center documented 7 ways that today’s millennials differ from their grandparents when they were young. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, so they are now between 22 and 37 years old. The researchers compared them to what they call the “silent generation,” born between 1928 and 1945, so currently between 73 and 90 years old.


Millennials are far less likely to be married than their grandparents were at their age.

A striking 57% of today’s young adults (ages 22-37) have never been married. When their grandparents were that age, just 17% of them had never been married.


Millennials are more likely to live in metropolitan areas than their grandparents were at their age.

Nearly 9 in 10 millennials (88%) live in cities and the surrounding suburbs. Two-thirds (67%) of their grandparents lived in metropolitan areas when they were young.


Today’s young adults are much more highly educated than their grandparents.

Among today’s young women, 36% have at least a bachelor’s degree, and among men, 29% do. Only 9% of their grandmothers and 15% of their grandfathers completed a bachelor’s degree or more.


Today, more young women than young men have at least a bachelor’s degree. For their grandparents, the reverse was true.

As the statistics for #3 indicate, young women today are more likely than the men to have at least a bachelor’s degree, 36% vs. 29%. Fifty years ago, the young women were less likely to be that highly educated, 9% vs. 15%. The reversal happened when the Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) were young.


Today’s young women are much more likely to be in the workforce than their grandmothers were.

Today, 71% of millennial women are employed. When their grandmothers were their age, only 40% of them were employed.


The grandfathers of today’s young men are more than 10 times more likely to be veterans.

Millennial men and their grandfathers both had opportunities to serve in military conflicts (Iraq and Afghanistan; Korea). In the silent generation, 47% of the men are veterans. Among their grandsons, only 4% are. (Historical data are not available for women, but the researchers noted that rates of military service have been increasing for them in recent decades.)


Today’s young adults are more ethnically and racially diverse than the young adults of their grandparents’ generation.

Interracial marriage and immigration are among the trends that have resulted in a more diverse generation of young adults today, compared to 50 years ago. Among millennials, 56% are non-Hispanic whites. In the silent generation, 84% fit that description.

Of course, there are many other significant ways that young adult life was different 50 years ago than it is now. The 7 trends discussed here are the ones that the Pew Research Center documented.

Photo by jot.punkt

7 Ways Millennials’ Lives Are Different from their Grandparents’ When They Were Young

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2018). 7 Ways Millennials’ Lives Are Different from their Grandparents’ When They Were Young. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 18 Sep 2018
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