Demystifying Millennials

While their behaviors confound retailers and marketers, we’re starting to gain a better understanding of what makes this cohort click.
Do you know any Millennials? You might even be a Millennial yourself.
Milliennials are contradictions, alternately described as lazy, entitled, idealistic, close to family, and racially diverse. Pew Research notes that Millennials are not bound to organized politics or religion, support a more activist government, are linked by social media, carry debt, and are optimistic about the future.
Demographers disagree about the exact time frame this huge group encompasses. Some say that Millennials were born between 1982 and sometime in the early 2000s. Pew Research says that Millennials range in age from 18 to 33 years.
Dionne Searcy notes in The New York Times that by 2020, Millennials will account for one-third of the adult population, and that the size of the Millennials cohort may even eclipse that of the Baby Boomers. Therefore, because the group is so large, Millennials will most likely have a profound influence on life in the US, just as the Boomers did in their day.
[iframe width=”600″ height=”400″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ src=,9.0791,-39.8172,64.0043&displayslider=true&displaylegend=true&displaysearch=true] Not surprisingly, in the small college town of Radford, VA, Millennials comprise 56.9 percent of the total population of 17,227. Conversely, in Sumter County, FL, where the median age is 63.6 years, Millennials are rather rare—only 9.3 percent of the population of 113,311. This map of the US by county illustrates where you can find Millennials throughout the US. View larger map
Formative years for many Millennials occurred during the Great Recession, when their parents lost jobs or homes. Even though Millennials are the most educated group, many are still under-employed and living back home. Others may be burdened with student loan debt, causing them to delay marriage and starting their own families. At some point, a goal is to achieve financial security; however, many Milliennials are currently unable to even qualify for a mortgage. Those who can afford to rent and want to be where the action is may lease or share apartments in urban areas.
Millennials are the most digitally connected group. Pew calls them “digital natives”, because they are the most avid users, and didn’t have to adapt to new technologies. Pew also says that 55 percent have posted a “selfie” on a social media site. Even though they’re very active on social media, some Millennials believe that people share too much information about themselves online.
Because Millennials shop differently from previous generations, manufacturers, marketers, and retailers are scrambling to attract them. Traditional marketing and messaging no longer work. Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial notes, “Our whole consumer model is based on the baby boom. Now the coming generation is ‘setting up a whole new consumer model’”.
According to a survey conducted by The Intelligence Group of Bedminster, New Jersey, Millennials are more informed consumers than their elders. They’re very comfortable researching and buying online, creating their own style, and not following trends. These behaviors complicate retailers’ marketing strategies and merchandising decisions.
“What worked five years ago doesn’t work now in terms of marketing and selling and advertising,” said Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics of Austin, Texas. “This has created a lot of urgency as more and more of these Millennials enter the market and start to have money or spend money they don’t have.” Accenture says that Millennials already spend $600 billion per year, with an estimated expected growth of $1.4 trillion in 2020. Marketers and retailers would do well to figure out how to reach this very formidable consumer group.


Need more information about US demographics? You can access Esri Demographics in reports, maps, infographics, charts, in software, and as data variables.

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