Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone, and welcome to the 151st episode of the Atlas Society asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. And as our guest today will tell you, uh, Jennifer was, uh, the peak, peak, uh, name for, for my birth year as Jen Exert. So I go by my initials Jag. I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit organization, introducing young people to the literature and ideas of a ran in fun, creative ways, like graphic novels, animated videos. Today we are joined by Jean Twangy. Before I even begin to introduce my guest, I wanna remind all of you who are joining us on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, uh, LinkedIn, and YouTube. You can, uh, go ahead and start typing in your questions into the queue. We will get to as many of them as we can. Our guest, Dr. Jean Twangy, is a psychologist who researches generational differences, inclu, including work values, life goals, and speed of development. She is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, and the author of more than 180 scientific publications and books, including the Narcissism Epidemic Generation, me and iGen y. Today's super connected kids are growing up, uh, less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, and completely unprepared for adulthood. Her latest book just published this year is Generations, the Real Differences Between Gen Z, millennials, gen X, boomers, and Silence, and What They mean for America's Future. Jean, thank you for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:54 Thanks very much. So you don't have a copy of the new one?
Speaker 0 00:01:58 Uh, we it, it didn't come yet, but there you go. <laugh>. Thank you. There
Speaker 1 00:02:02 We go. Color post notes in there, <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:02:05 Yeah, my copy is, uh, is actually right here on Audible Bad.
Speaker 1 00:02:11 There you go. That works.
Speaker 0 00:02:12 Highly recommend the, uh, the audible versions. Um, you've got a, a great narrator there. So, um, so let's first start with your origin story, where you grew up, early influences, and what inspired you to make studying generational differences, your life's work.
Speaker 1 00:02:29 Yeah, so I'm originally from Minnesota and then, uh, we moved, uh, to Texas for my dad's job. And I went back to the Midwest for my education. And when I was doing my senior honors thesis at the University of Chicago, I was giving out, um, a questionnaire that asked about personality traits. And some of those are things like being assertive and being a leader. So things that, you know, and very stereotypically ways have sometimes been associated with, uh, with men more than women. And I noticed that the women in the sample there in the early nineties were scoring much higher in saying they were assertive and leaders, um, compared to what the 1970s Test Manual said they were supposed to score. So that made me realize that might be a generational difference. And, um, got the same result with that questionnaire the next year in grad school at the University of Michigan. And then went and found everybody who had used that questionnaire that had used it on college students and published it in a journal and found just a really, really linear increase in women saying they were a assertive and had leadership qualities. So that was my first paper on generational differences.
Speaker 0 00:03:39 Fantastic. Now, um, like myself, you're a member of Generation X, which you've called the middle child of generations. Yeah. Does having that generational birth order, if you will, um, provide any particular advantages in surveying those who came before and those who proceed after?
Speaker 1 00:04:01 So, gen X is the middle child right now in terms of generations. They won't be that way forever. Um, but Gen X has boomers and silence older than them and millennials and Gen Z as younger. Um, even when Gen X, you know, years go by and Gen X isn't the middle child in a literal way, I think Gen X will always be the middle child in a figurative way, uh, because we're always ignored. So it's very common to see books and articles about generations that focus just on boomers and millennials and forget that there's a generation in between. I actually think a lot of Gen Xers like that. I think we'd like flying under the radar.
Speaker 0 00:04:45 Uh, doesn't bother me. Um, but I, I did, uh, a lot of what you wrote about that, uh, generation did resonate, um, a lot. And it was really the last generation before, um, the, the, the internet. I mean, I remember in one of my first jobs, uh, speech Schroder for President Bush, you'd go to the library, you know, that's how you would do your research. And, and you've used very early computers, um, to, to print out, to print out your work. Now, uh, your latest book is a, uh, it's a panoramic tour of various generations from silence to Boomers to Gen X, millennials, gen Z for a level set for our viewers. Perhaps you'd refresh our memories with the years that you use to, uh, define these categories so that everyone can situate themselves, their parents, their mm-hmm. <affirmative> grandparents, their children, et cetera along the spectrum.
Speaker 1 00:05:46 Sure. So the silent generation, also another generation that's often forgotten. Born 1925 to 1945, uh, boomers 1946 to 1964, gen X, 1965 to 1979, millennials 1980 to 1994 and Gen Z, 1995 to 2012. And then after them, we have little kids or younger kids, 2013 and later. Sometimes they're called Gen Alpha, I call them polars after melting polar ice caps and political polarization.
Speaker 0 00:06:25 Interesting. Okay. I was wondering about the origin of that. So, um, one of the reasons I was so drawn to this earlier book of yours is that our primary focus at the Atlas Society is introducing young people in their teens and twenties to the ideas of I rand. Um, and that's the a generation you cover in iGen y today's super connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, and completely unprepared for adulthood. Um, our approach is premised on the supposition that reading habits have changed so that when it comes to a novelist most famous for books that run, uh, to a thousand pages, our approach requires some innovation. What can you tell us about, um, changes in reading habits and anything specifically about reaching the, uh, iGen or Gen Z generation?
Speaker 1 00:07:21 Yeah, I think your instincts are correct. So, um, in both the books, one of the surveys that I draw from is a survey of high school seniors. So most are 18, the rest are 17, and we have data going back to 1976, which is really powerful cause it means we can compare each generation going back to the boomers anyway, at the same age. So there's a question on that survey that asks, um, about reading. So reading books, magazines, or newspapers. And I looked at the percentage. You say they do that every day or almost every day? Well, back in the late seventies, that number was 60%. And keep in mind, this is asking about things you read that are not for school. So it's leisure time reading. So more than half of 17 and 18 year olds read for pleasure in one way or another in the late seventies.
Speaker 1 00:08:15 And the last time that they asked that question, at least in that particular way, was in 2017. And at that point it was 15%. Wow. That's an enormous shift. It's not that young people never like to read. More than half of 'em used to do that every day voluntarily. So it has gone way down. Now that decline is pretty steady. It started in the eighties when it was Gen Xers who were in high school, and, but it just kept going. So that's a really, really, that's one of the biggest generational differences I've I've ever documented. So where's that time going? Um, sures going to the internet and social media. Um, but it probably also goes to, you know, reading shorter form text, um, playing video games, watching tv, things like that.
Speaker 0 00:09:06 So, lemme see if I got this right. The percentage of, um, people who were reading books and newspapers in the leisure time, uh, in the late seventies, that was more than half of teens. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and young adults. Yep. And when measured again in
Speaker 1 00:09:25 20 15, 20 17, 20 17,
Speaker 0 00:09:30 That went from more than half to 15%.
Speaker 1 00:09:34 Yeah, that's right. Well, yep.
Speaker 0 00:09:37 All right, well we gotta just continue to keep <laugh> keep switching it up. But I, I appreciate, you know, having the hard data to, to pick up sort of some of the, um, the approach that we take because, uh, you know, we do TikTok and it can be challenging to kind of convey some of these complex ideas in a, you know, very short clip. But, um, but the idea is that we're kind of putting it out there, the bread crumbs, they're kind of, um, marketing touches and, um, trying to spark interest for those who would be, uh, prepared to take the next step in their, in their journey. So, um, you previously wrote about millennials in Generation Me and described that as an easier task, given that you shared with them some generational milestones. But in iGen, you had the, um, other advantage of three daughters born, 2006, 2009, 2012. Did that help you understand your subject matter or your daughters any better? And did your findings lead to any changes in your own parenting approach, um, to help kids, your kids avoid some of the pitfalls of their generation, like being less happy or, uh, less prepared for adulthood?
Speaker 1 00:11:04 Yeah, so, you know, it really goes both ways. When I write the books, the data really comes first. Cause there's so many stereotypes and so many myths out there about generations. My goal is to help us understand each other better. And I think the best way to do that is to be empirical and to look at the survey data. And fortunately, we have a lot more of that. Now we're in the era of big data. We, you don't, we don't really have to guess anymore about the generational differences. So in, in both of these books, that was, that was really my goal to just find as, as much data on the changes and the generational differences as possible. And then that is of course, informed by, um, talking to young people as well. So when iGen, I did a bunch of interviews in generations, cuz it's about all six generations that I've done interviews.
Speaker 1 00:11:54 The book would would be the thousand pages that we've been talking about, if not more. Um, so that's a challenge, you know, in today's market. So, um, but I was able to find, you know, certainly lots of examples, uh, through social media and uh, and other sources. And you know, one of the biggest things that I found for Gen Z or iGen is just a really alarming rate of increase in teen depression and self harm and loneliness. It started around 2012 and just kept going from there. So when I wrote iGen, that was really a mystery that I had to try to solve. Why, why did teen depression start to go up around 2012? Um, cuz there's a lot of attention now to the adolescent mental health, health crisis, but it's often framed in terms of the pandemic. And this is not due to the pandemic.
Speaker 1 00:12:48 Teen depression started to, you know, double between 2011 and 2019 long before the pandemic was on the scene. Um, and realized the end of 2012 was when the majority of Americans owned a smartphone for the first time. Also, around the time that social media use among teens became much more ubiquitous. So I realized technology might have something to do with it, that although there's a lot of advantages to modern technology, if it is keeping us from relating to each other and spending time with each other face-to-face, that can be a problem. Cause that's exactly what's happened with teens. They spend a lot less time with each other in person cuz that's been replaced by that online communication.
Speaker 0 00:13:32 Yeah, and I thought was fascinating. In your latest book generations in the section on, uh, generation Z, you had even newer data to draw on and were able to dig a little bit deeper into, well, is this just a US phenomenon? But, um, maybe tell a little bit about, uh, how you were able to track this as actually, uh, a global trend.
Speaker 1 00:13:59 Yeah, because that, that's an important consideration because when the data from the US was coming out, a lot of people said, well, if it is technology, if it is smartphones and social media that is behind this troubling increase in teen depression, then that should be global. So at first it was, it was hard, uh, to find that data, but now we have it. So especially from English speaking countries, we have a lot of data depression. Self and self-harm have increased in almost exactly the same pattern as it has in the US in Canada, in the UK and Australia. We have some data from the Nordic countries and Scandinavian countries as well. And then for adolescent loneliness, um, colleague of mine found the PISA dataset, which looked at adolescent loneliness since 2000 in 37 countries around the world. And we found that it increased starting around 2012, exactly the same pattern as in the us.
Speaker 1 00:14:59 And that, that's helpful for a number of reasons. One of which is it helps us rule out any causes that are more unique to the United States, such as political trends or school shootings, because those are things that don't happen as much. Um, yeah, school shootings do not happen as much, um, in other countries around the world. So it seems clear that that was not the cause. Cuz if that was the cause you'd expect to see different trends around the world. And instead the trend is exactly the same in countries that had the introduction of the smartphone around the same time as the us.
Speaker 0 00:15:37 So one of the big takeaways, uh, from both your iGen book and your latest book generations, the section on Gen Z was, uh, how kids born after 1995 were growing up much more slowly than previous generations. What are some examples of that and does that contribute to there being less prepared for adulthood?
Speaker 1 00:16:03 Yeah, so this is one of the big cultural changes that has affected all generations. And we notice it more, you know, with, with Gen Z, but at times and places when people live longer. And when education takes longer to finish, which is where we are right now as a society, parents tend to have fewer children and nurture them more carefully. And because people have more years of life, the entire developmental trajectory slows down from infancy to old age. So children are less independent, adolescents are less likely to have their driver's license or to have a paid job or to have sex or to drink alcohol. Young adults take longer to get married. Um, they have children later, they settle into careers later. And middle ation, older people look and feel younger than their parents and grandparents did at the same age. So it's, you know, 50 is the new forties, 60 is the new 50 and so on.
Speaker 1 00:17:03 So although this is often seen as something that's impacting young people, it's really affecting all of the generations. But it is really noticeable with teens because a lot of Gen X parents look at their Gen Z kids and say, wait, you know, why don't, why are you not interested in getting a driver's license? Cuz I was at the D M V on my 16th birthday to get that driver's license. And a lot of Gen Z kids are like, eh, they don't really care as much. Um, they're not as interested in being independent. So there's advantages to this little life strategy. So most parents are thrilled that not as many kids are having sex and drinking alcohol. But it's not just about those things, it's also about just not as likely to go out or have a job or have the driver's license. So there's these tradeoffs, cuz the downside is that they're just graduating from high school without as much experience with independence and without as much experience making decisions on their own. And that can be tough once they get to college or into the workplace.
Speaker 0 00:18:04 Yes. Tell us about the whole use of this word adulting and that, that phenomenon.
Speaker 1 00:18:09 Yeah. Yeah. So that's, that's a term as far as I can tell, coined by millennials that adult is a verb and it's usually used, which I find this fascinating that the, that as a verb adult is an adulting. It's used to describe things that aren't very much fun. You know, it implies that being adult isn't fun, which I find a little strange cuz there's big advantages to being an adult. I instead of a child, you have freedom and being able to make decisions on your own is one of them. Uh, yeah. So adulting tends to refer to paying bills, um, or to going to work and things like that. So yeah, people online will talk about, you know, I'm scared of adulting and I'm tired of adulting.
Speaker 0 00:18:51 Interesting. Well, we're gonna turn to audience. I'm gonna dip into those audience questions. I know they are piling up, but, uh, just one more big takeaway from your writing about, um, gen Z iGen was the preoccupation with safety, again, some clearer upsides, fewer car accidents, things like that mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But what are some of the trade offs?
Speaker 1 00:19:16 Yeah, so it's really been this huge emphasis on, on safety children and teens in the last few decades. And then it goes hand in hand with that, that slow life strategy. What's fascinating about it to me is that, that that's mostly been something that has been implemented by adults and by parents. And you'd think teenagers especially would rebel against that. But that is not what Gen Z has done. They have embraced the culture of safety. So that has advantages. Fewer car accidents, fewer get into fistfights, things like that. But there has been what some people have referred to as mission creep around safety. It's become that parents don't just try to protect their children from physical dangers. They protect them from having experiences. Also, gen Z sometimes talks about emotional safety, so not just physical safety, but emotional safety. And, you know, again, there's trade-offs because on the one hand, if that means having more awareness around say, mental health issues and that, that can be a positive. On the other hand, if emotional safety means I can't talk to you because I disagree with you, and we can't have, um, a civil conversation about things we disagree with, and we can't have the speaker come to campus, so we'll disinvite them, and we need to have a safe space with videos of puppies and pillows as some campuses have done, then especially Gen X and boomers look at that and say, well, hold on. You know, this isn't now just about safety. This you have to learn, learn how to deal with some of these experiences.
Speaker 0 00:20:57 Yeah, no, I, I thought it was interesting, even in, um, my own sphere of, um, one of my nephews, uh, was raised in a very particular kind of bubble of Marin and, um, probably only reacted with people who thought in a certain way, went to school in, in the Midwest, had a hard time dealing, I think, with the differences and ended up, um, transferring back to, to a college that I, I think felt probably safer for him in, in some ways. Um, alright, looking at some of these questions, uh, my modern goal coming in on Instagram, um, once to talk about how different generations generally interact with each other, uh, data showing how intergenerational households work or don't work. Do that, does that happen to promote kind of more understanding across generations? Or are the changes so different that, um, it causes more friction?
Speaker 1 00:22:06 Yeah, so that's something that the data I analyze really didn't address. Um, but I, I think you can take a starting point with what some of the differences are to try to bridge some of those intergenerational gaps, whether that's at work or at home of, you know, having, having that perspective, first of all, that we've all been shaped by the changes in technology. There's a common perception with generations that generations are about the events that you experience. And that sometimes means people feel like, oh, the younger generation can say, well, you didn't experience what I did at the same age, so you won't be able to understand me. Or even more older generations can say, you know, well, you weren't alive when the Vietnam War protests were happening, so you couldn't understand. So that can create some division, but if we think about it instead that we've all been shaped by these changes in technology, I think that can help unite us in realizing that that's, that's why day-to-day life is really different is because of the changes in technology. And yes, uh, it's true. For example, gen Xers didn't have social media when they were teenagers. So we have to think about, you know, how that experience is different. Um, on the other hand, we, we have all had that experience of feeling like we can't put that phone down.
Speaker 0 00:23:29 All right. On Twitter, Zach Huber, as, um, asks, they say that people are, um, taking longer to grow up nowadays, but at the same time, it seems young people are being exposed to more adult things at a much younger age. Is this true? You actually have some great findings in your book about, for example, uh, exposure to pornography?
Speaker 1 00:23:56 Yeah, yeah. So I, I think that's true for the most part. Um, so it, not for every kid necessarily, but this has been the interesting movement around child safety is that we have protected kids from physical dangers and they are taking longer to do real world adult things, yet it's become very common to give an eight or nine year old child a smartphone sometimes without even any parental controls on it. And then what can they discover? Sometimes that's pornography, sometimes it's other inappropriate things. And there hasn't been as much of that consideration of online safety. I mean, social media is a great example. It's very, very unregulated. So just now in the last year or so, there's been a lot more attention paid to perhaps regulating social media more, especially for, um, younger children and younger teens.
Speaker 0 00:24:54 And maybe if you could elaborate a little bit about, um, how that exposure to pornography has played out, uh, for, you know, millennials and Jen z particularly when it comes to things like relationships. I particularly found the, um, your documenting the changes in, uh, relationships and same sex relationships and all of that just has, has really changed a lot.
Speaker 1 00:25:27 Yeah. So there's, there's some speculation that the, um, widespread accessibility of pornography, especially starting at such young ages. Maybe one reason why young adults are actually less likely to be sexually active now than they were a few decades ago, which is really surprising considering all the dating apps out there, considering that, uh, the acceptance of premarital sex is, is higher than it used to be. But yeah. Um, millennial and Gen Z, young adults less likely to, um, have had sex in the last year. And, um, I first documented that along with some colleagues, uh, in the mid 2010s. And that trend is continued to grow. Uh, which again, I wouldn't ne, you know, I I think at the time that was a really shocking result. And it's surprising it's kept going, but, you know, I think there's a lot of factors in that The life strategy is in there too. Um, but some of this exposure to, uh, pornography may have something to do with it because some people may think, well, that's can be a replacement for relationships. And then there's some people who have written about how that accessibility of pornography has had an impact on, on people's relationships, made them more transactional, made them more, um, just likely to focus on a sex rather than the relationship.
Speaker 0 00:26:57 Yeah, I think you used the phrase hot sex, but cold emotions.
Speaker 1 00:27:02 Right. And that one's, that one's not mine. It's, um, it's, uh, a sociologist who wrote a book called American Hookup, interviewed a bunch of college students, and, and that was her conclusion,
Speaker 0 00:27:13 Uh, on Facebook. Jack Rogers is asking whether social media has made it difficult for younger people to find purpose in their lives, uh, preferring instead instant gratification. And maybe that also can combine with some of the changes you document with regards to religion, spirituality, that kind of thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Speaker 1 00:27:35 Yeah. So there's definitely been a decline, especially among young people in affiliating with the religion. Even the private practice or private beliefs around religion, like belief in God, um, and prayer have have gone down. So those are less common, and it doesn't seem to have been replaced by spirituality. That's a common misperception that, uh, oh, young people are more spiritual, even if they're less religious, the data don't really support that. Um, so then you have to ask what then what replaces that? And sometime, you know, some people have made the argument that politics have replaced religion in some ways, uh, or that online life as placed religion.
Speaker 0 00:28:18 All right. I'll take one more question then I, that I have to turn back to a few that I prepared for you. Uh, on Zoom, Robert Griffiths is asking, how concerned are you about how narcissistic people are becoming in their interactions and relationships?
Speaker 1 00:28:35 Well, you know it, with narcissism, there's actually some good news, at least for young adults.
Speaker 1 00:28:42 So we can trace narcissistic personality traits from 1982 until recently, based on the most common measure it's been used, um, with college students over that time period. And narcissism scores did increase from 1982 till about 2008. But since 2008, they have gone down and they're now at about the same level they were in 1982. Now, that's one population. It's hard to say, you know, how it looks across, you know, all adults, but that's an encouraging sign in some ways. Um, and I think the, the, the sad news is it, it doesn't, it's not that surprising that narcissism has, has, uh, continued to decline because that is what you'd expect with the rise in depression and the, um, decline in self-esteem that we see elsewhere among teens and young adults.
Speaker 0 00:29:37 When did the, uh, the rise in narcissism peak?
Speaker 1 00:29:41 About 2008.
Speaker 0 00:29:43 Interesting. Uh, alright. I wanted to ask about work and, um, how the different generations, um, how their attitudes about work, uh, have changed over the years. And particularly how the, uh, the youngest generation, the Gen Z, um, how they're making that transition, transition to work, if they're nostalgic for childhood in a time when their needs were taken care of. Um, how did they regard things like job interviews and performance reviews?
Speaker 1 00:30:17 Yeah, so, you know, there's, there's a number of elements here. So one is just that the annual review is too long, and waiting two years for a promotion is too long. Just, uh, with the internet, even though I talk about the still ice strategy over the whole course of life, our everyday life has sped up and there's a lot of impatience out there. Um, it's just the pace has picked up. So a lot of managers have moved to more frequent evaluations, more frequent feedback than the annual review. Um, some have done, I think this is such a great solution. Instead of you're gonna be eligible for a promotion after two years, have smaller promotions every six months. Some managers have had some good luck with that, um, for Gen Z. So we have a new generation understand they're different from millennials. That's the big piece because a lot of managers say, I just got used to millennials and now we have this new generation.
Speaker 1 00:31:17 And they are very different from millennials. Millennials especially as young adults, very optimistic, very self-confident, and Gen Z is not, they're much more pessimistic and not as self-confident. So realize that there has been that generational shift. I've seen it in my own classroom as, as a university professor, um, and Gen Z like every generation, you know, has strengths and weaknesses. So obviously they have a lot of strength in, in their tech savvy. Um, they are more likely than previous generations who are at the same age to say that they wanna help others. So helping others in difficulty, getting a job where they can help others is important to them in terms of, um, the centrality of work and work ethic, a little bit of a complex picture. So, um, for a while Gen Z was more likely to say that work was gonna be a central part of their life, more likely to say that they're willing to work overtime until 2021.
Speaker 1 00:32:12 And then that trended significantly downwards. So we ha we'll have to keep an eye on that in the survey data to see if that decline continues. Uh, cause it looked like for a while, gen Z's very practical, makes sense that they would recognize the value of hard work. But coming out of the pandemic, there was quiet quitting, there was a labor shortage, you know, things started to change. So when we look at those surveys of 18 year olds, they were starting to pick up on that, or maybe that even predicted since the data was in 2021, what was gonna happen in 2022 with all the talk of quiet quitting.
Speaker 0 00:32:47 If this is a generation that prizes security and safety, can we expect to see fewer taking an entrepreneurial career track?
Speaker 1 00:32:59 That's how it looks. And so that was another surprise, uh, with work attitudes. There's a really, really common perception that Gen Z is uniquely entrepreneurial, but if you look in the National survey data, wanting to own your own business or be self-employed peaked with Gen Xers in the eighties and early nineties. And it's ticked up a little bit like by a couple of percentage points in the last 10 years, but not by a huge amount. So that, that was, you know, another surprise that it's easier now to start your own business, say putting up a website. So that's probably why we've seen a little bit of an increase. But this idea that, you know, gen Z doesn't want to have a regular job, doesn't seem to be supported by that data.
Speaker 0 00:33:44 So let's talk just a little bit about, um, changes in politics, ideology. Uh, I was surprised by your chapter exploring young people's political views, thinking that this emphasis on safety and nostalgia for childhood might incline them to want, um, more of a socialist nanny state that promises to take care of them. And perhaps there is some of that, but you also found that in fact, this generation lines up more, uh, neatly with libertarianism, uh, help us understand this seeming contradiction.
Speaker 1 00:34:18 Yeah, so that, that's really what
Speaker 1 00:34:23 I think characterizes this, this generation is the, there's obviously every generation's gonna have a diversity of political thought, and this one is no different. You know, you can't automatically go in and assume that all young people are going to be, uh, you know, on the left. So, but what does show up much more frequently with this generation is that libertarian point of view of individualism and, you know, putting more, more emphasis on the self and less on social rules. And that's going to tend toward the idea maybe not being clearly on the left or right, but being more libertarian in terms of just smaller government, um, and fewer, fewer laws restricting things. But it depends too on when you're looking because those, I came to those conclusions with the data up to about 2015 or 2016, and in, in recent years, you've seen a little bit more movement toward the left among this group, especially on social issues.
Speaker 0 00:35:32 Interesting. Um, well, earlier in our interview you talked about wanting to, uh, dispel some of the myths that you find with regards to, um, the various generations. What are some of the, the biggest misconceptions and myths, whether about Gen Z or, you know, looking back to older generations, how we tend to regard them, or just even myths about generational change? I oh, it's a pendulum, it's always swinging back, that kinda thing.
Speaker 1 00:36:05 Right? Yeah, I can start there. I mean, cuz that's the traditional theory of, of generations is that generations are shaped by major events. There's an influential theory, um, uh, a few decades ago, Straus Andhas book also called Generations that came out in 1991 said The generations came in cycles of four. But I think that cycle has clearly broken down with the recent generations because they said that the millennials are going to be like the greatest generation of fought World War ii, which is, um, meaning very much into group action and collectivism. And that's pretty much the opposite of how millennials have, um, shaped have their, how millennials values have been shaped. And then that system would also make Gen Z like the silent generation who married younger and had kids younger than any other generation close to them. And that's exactly the opposite of what Gen Z is doing.
Speaker 1 00:37:00 So clearly there's something else going on, and I think that's something else is technology, not just the internet, but also better medical care and air conditioning and labor saving devices. All of these things that really describe why living now is so completely different from what it was like to live 150 years ago, or even 50 years ago, or 20 years ago. Really, it's technology that's the biggest impact on our day-to-day lives and leads to the biggest generational differences. So I, I think one of the biggest misperceptions of generations, um, is actually on another topic, it's on economic performance. So there's a very common idea that millennials are broke, that they'll be the first generation to not do as well as their parents, that they'll never own homes. And that's not true anymore. That is true that generation, that that millennials had a difficult start as a generation during the great recession. However, median incomes have roared back since then, and the median income of 25 to 44 year olds now is at all time highs, even when corrected for inflation. So that's correcting for everything. Families spend money on everything from housing to televisions to healthcare,
Speaker 1 00:38:20 Millennials own houses at almost the same rate as Gen Xers and boomers at the same age, really only a couple of percentage points off, um, their wealth building, which in 2015, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis said, you know, millennials might be a lost generation when it comes to wealth. They've caught up, they're now neck and neck with Gen Xers at the same age and on track to equal boomers. And that's important too, because that takes into account housing, uh, equity, and it also takes into account student loans, which of course is something that has had a bigger impact on millennials. So they've had more student loans, however, more of them have gotten the college education, and that's one of the reasons why they're doing better economically.
Speaker 0 00:39:04 Interesting. All right. I'm not sure if I understand this question, uh, on Facebook, Simon Garcia's asking whether, uh, professor, you think the younger generations suffer from mental issues due to a lack of ways to rebel?
Speaker 1 00:39:23 Hmm. Well, they still have, and you,
Speaker 0 00:39:27 You talk about how yeah, this is a less rebellious, uh, generation. So maybe talk a little bit about that, how that rebellious attitude kind of made its way through the generations, and even if they're less rebellious, what, when they are rebellious, how, how is it manifesting?
Speaker 1 00:39:45 Yeah, and when I'm talking about rebellion, I'm, I'm mostly referring to that culture of safety like we were discussing mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and that really, that got going with millennials. So I think that's one reason why we can't completely point to that for the mental health crisis. It may be in there, it's certainly may be one of the causes, um, that we've overprotected kids that they haven't had as much experience with independence, you know, that could certainly have an impact. But we see the biggest increases in mental health issues among the youngest kids, 10 to 14 year olds. So they're, that's, that's not an age that is as is as associated with independence and rebellion as say, 15 and 19 year olds where we don't, we see it, we see an increase in depression, but it's not as big. Um, the timing also doesn't really line up as much because it does start with millennials and the mental health crisis really started with Gen Z.
Speaker 0 00:40:45 Right. Um, John Bird on Facebook, another factoid to possibly elaborate on younger generations having devolved with respect to dating. They see not just mass produced products as disposable, but also relationships. Um, minimal effort to maintain a relationship. Tell us about dating and mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, if, uh, I, I know that y younger kids are very much, uh, teens unlikely to be dating in, in the way that, um, gen gen Xers and boomers were, but mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what do you find?
Speaker 1 00:41:25 Yeah, yeah. So teens are just, they're just less likely to be dating. Um, so if you look at the percentages of, um, say high school seniors, whoever go out on dates, that's gone way down. Um, eighth graders are an interesting group. It's a survey that asked them, and for a while, for Gen Xers and most millennials, about half of, of, um, eighth graders were dating in some way or another. And now it's more like a fourth. So pretty big changes. And in, in, uh, in the recent book, I also looked at some questions that ask high school seniors about, um, the likelihood they'll get married, even the likelihood that they'll have a steady romantic partner. And those numbers had been steady and high since the late 1970s, really hardly changed for decades until you get the transition to Gen Z around 2012 with that age group, and then they started to go down. So Gen Z's much more skeptical about marriage, about having children as well, and just about having steady relationships.
Speaker 0 00:42:32 So in your role as a professor of psychology at San Diego State, you've been teaching, um, dealing with kids for at least two, maybe, uh, having exposure to more generations. What have you found, what kind of differences are you, you talked a little bit about seeing this lack of confidence and tentativeness in the current crop of students. How, what kinds of changes have you seen over, over the years, particularly with regards to things like being curious about other points of view and, uh, tolerance of, um, debate?
Speaker 1 00:43:07 Yeah, so I, I teach large lecture classes, um, rather than small discussion classes. So I haven't had much observation of some of the things around discussion, but I've definitely noticed that, um, students now are, are, are a little more reluctant to raise their hand and ask questions and participate, then say the students were 10 or 15 years ago. Um, but today's students are also really nice mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, and they're less entitled.
Speaker 0 00:43:35 Well, that's, uh, we, we like that. Bet That is a, some, some good news. Um, so in your latest book generations, you also introduce us to the newest generation, the Polars and, um, born after 2013. So notes still very early, about 10 years of being able to have data on them. Um, but, but what can you tell us?
Speaker 1 00:43:58 Yeah, so with Polars we see a very similar, um, trade off and what we get with, with Gen Z, that they are safer in many ways when it comes to say, childhood injuries. However, there's also a big increase in childhood obesity and a big increase in kids who are not getting enough exercise. So I think a lot of this has to do with screens that young kids used to render on outside a lot more and get a lot more exercise, and now they're inside, um, with the tablet or the video gaming. So more protected physically, but also some of these both physical and eventually mental dangers of spending your life on a screen.
Speaker 0 00:44:45 No, it's funny that you say that. I was just at a very large wedding, a habad wedding of orthodox, uh, Jews this week and hundreds of of people. And the thing that was the, my biggest takeaway was looking at these young kids, five year olds, six year olds, seven year olds, and so many of them were very, very overweight. And I thought, oh, that's gonna be difficult to, to to deal with. But in a way it's, um, interesting cuz these are families where they're having eight children or nine children. And I would assume like in a family like that, you're probably gonna have to, that's, it's probably would swing more to a, a faster life strategy in a way. I mean, you, you mm-hmm. <affirmative> can't spend as much care and time and focus on one or two children. Do, do you find that the, the, um, family sizes, uh, makes a difference in, in how, um, parents kind of go about protecting or overprotecting their kids?
Speaker 1 00:45:52 I mean that as, as a general principal, very general. Um, when you come from a larger family, you learn how to fend for yourself a little bit earlier. And you may have that experience of having responsibility for younger siblings at a, at uh, a younger age. So that's what the slow life versus fast life strategy kind of observes is that you will, in theory anyway, grow up faster if you have more siblings.
Speaker 0 00:46:21 Um, in your book you argue that each generation is shaped by the historical events and cultural mo movements of their time. What do you think will be the defining movements of the 21st century for Gen Z and the polars that you just mentioned? Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:46:41 Like the, the pandemic will probably be the event that will be the most discussed, um, by these two generations. Um, but I also just don't think those major events have the biggest impact. They have an impact, but I think the changes in technology have a bigger impact. So for Gen Z, that's gonna be the smartphone for polars, maybe it'll be artificial intelligence.
Speaker 0 00:47:10 Yeah. So, um, not trying to put you on the spot or ask you to gaze into a, uh, crystal ball, but there is so much buzz surrounding AI now techno pessimists envisioning a, uh, dystopia of techno overlords and techno utopians, uh, envisioning a world in which robots will take care of all our needs, um, with predictions of accelerating change one way or another. Are there any constants or principles, uh, that your years studying generational evolution suggest that may provide clues to the future?
Speaker 1 00:47:50 Well, I, I think with a, i, it's gonna be kind of unpredictable to see how that's gonna go. You know, I have a little bit more confidence in other predictions that, uh, the workplace is never gonna go back to five days a week in person for everyone that we're gonna have more hybrid situations. So thus commercial real estate may not be the best investment, for example. Um, and that residential real estate, big houses are still gonna be in, even if people don't have as many children that they're gonna want two home offices, maybe one for, for each member of the couple. Um, and that, uh, speaking of which, the birth rate, I don't think the birth rate's ever gonna come back up, uh, given that Gen Z says at 18 that they're not as likely, it's not as likely that they're gonna want to have children.
Speaker 0 00:48:42 Yeah. You know, um, in, in reading your, uh, the two books about Gen Z I have noticed, um, had a couple of conversations with some of our friends, our, our donors who said, uh, you know, that their kids, their, their sons or, you know, handsome and their twenties and, um, studying to become a pilot or whatever, but are just celibate. And it's not just that they don't have opportunity, they, they are not interested in having, um, sexual relations. Tell, tell us a little bit about how these, um, different, the changes in sexuality, um, also with regards to same sex and, um, and the whole gender thing, which really seems to have, uh, exploded from my, what I've gathered that previously this seemed to be, um, more focused on, um, males identifying as, as female or not feeling that they were, um, comfortable in, in the male body in which they were born. And now that just seems to have swung in to be a phenomenon of, uh, young girls and young women feeling that they are in fact male.
Speaker 1 00:50:00 Yeah. So there's, there's two different changes here. So one is in terms of sexual orientation, so who people are attracted to, how they identify, whether that's gay or lesbian or bisexual. And there, by far the biggest change has been the increase in the number of, um, young women identifying as bisexual. There's been also an increase in men identifying as bisexual. A lot less change in those identifying as gay or lesbian that's stayed, you know, that's increased a little bit, but stayed, stayed relatively stable. Um, and then in terms of transgender identification between 2014 and 2021, the number of young adults, so 18 to 26 year olds identifying as transgender quadri in a pretty short period of time. And that was almost exclusively driven by those who, uh, were assigned female at birth. Uh, cuz you're right, it used to be that most of the, uh, discussion around people who were transgender was tho among those who were assigned male at birth. And now that has shifted.
Speaker 0 00:51:00 What do you think might be driving that?
Speaker 1 00:51:03 We really don't know. Um, cuz the, these, these changes have, um, happened in a short period of time. And one thing, there's a couple things that are interesting that may not entirely explain it, but help rule out some possibilities. So one thing that's interesting is there's been very little change in transgender identification among older people. So those ages 27 and older, there's hasn't been much change since 2014, even though there's been such a big change among young adults. The other is that increase in transgender identification among young adults is almost exactly the same in red states, conservative states versus blue liberal states. So whatever is occurring, it's national, not regional.
Speaker 0 00:51:50 You think it's also international? Or do we not have that data yet?
Speaker 1 00:51:54 I and I mostly look at US data. Um, I don't, I don't know if that data exists internationally, but that'd be a great thing to look at.
Speaker 0 00:52:01 All right. Well, we're, we've got about, uh, seven more minutes. So, um, professor, uh, you've written so many books, uh, hundreds of papers. Is there, uh, an area that we haven't covered that you'd really like to share with with our viewers today?
Speaker 1 00:52:20 Um, we haven't talked a lot about boomers and, um, you know, boomers are a generation with a lot of influence. They've also gotten a lot of criticism. Um, and even though I'm a Gen Xer, I'm supposed to not like boomers. Um, I think you have to, you have to take a, a clear eye on this. And I think a, a lot of the criticism, a lot of the idea of ba blaming, ugh, sorry, of blaming boomers for everything, um, doesn't really capture their experience that there were a lot of boomers, especially those who didn't get a college education, who really ended up stuck as the economy changed. So boomers were really the first victims of income inequality and the shifting economy, not the perpetrators. And I think that's another myth that we really have to confront when we're talking about the generational differences.
Speaker 0 00:53:13 Um, so of course boomers kind of started with, uh, you know, the, uh, we associate them at least with the counterculture of the sixties and, and the seventies and the sexual revolution and campus protests for free speech and anti-graft and all of that. Um, but this is a generation that's also, um, changed over the years, uh, in terms of their priorities and their politics. Is that correct?
Speaker 1 00:53:45 Yeah, I mean, boomers were the hippies of the sixties and then the yuppies of the eighties, and they really captured their political journey at least, you know, it's one of, it's one study of, um, political beliefs that goes back to the 1940s, which is amazing. So you can trace boomers for the, basically their whole lives through this study, and many more of them were liberal progressives when they were younger, uh, by reputation. And then the eighties that shifted very quickly in the age of Reagan, where boomers became more Republican and more conservative, and they more or less stayed that way ever since. At least if you trace the, the averages,
Speaker 0 00:54:23 You used some phrasing, um, in your books with a gen with generations that started out as wanting more radical change. And then at some point, I think you say, think they feel like things have changed enough mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and do you see that happening as well with, uh, with the Gen Z? Um, as, as the time goes by?
Speaker 1 00:54:49 Yeah, possibly. And that, but that does happen. It happens to almost every generation. They'll agitate for change when they're younger. You
Speaker 0 00:54:58 Focus, you focus a lot on the, you know, yes. The, uh, racial, um mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the focus on anti-racism and Black lives matter. And, um, you know, I, uh, critical race theory, all of this. I wonder if at some point I, I wouldn't say the pendulum swings back, but, but, uh, um, they may continue to evolve their views.
Speaker 1 00:55:24 Yeah. I mean, it remains to be seen and that, that that does, it does happen. Um, and I do think there is a generational element to some of these debates, which hasn't always been recognized. And the break seems to be between Gen Xers and boomers on one side and millennials and Gen Z on the other. Among those, those four, those four generations, that's really where it breaks so many of the conflicts. Some that's how it's been. So the Gen X editor at the New York Times who wanted to run the op-ed, uh, on the right, and then the young employees, young millennial, and Gen Z employees who said no and got 'em fired, um, the Disney c e o who was either a boomer or a Gen Xer who said, we're not gonna put out a statement on politics. Um, and the young employees said, you have to, and he did. And then now he and, and, uh, uh, Disney and, and, uh, Florida are having their conflicts. Yeah. Um, so, and various, you know, gen X, um, often entertainers have been, uh, the, the subject of, um, at least attempted cancellation, usually coming from the younger generation is usually coming from the, from the left. But, you know, we're in a strange political time. Uh, the, um, the sad fact of the matter is there's, there's, um, attempts at censorship from both sides of the political aisle.
Speaker 0 00:56:53 Well, um, as, as they, we always hear that politics is downstream from culture, but, uh, culture is downstream from something else. And, um, that's philosophy. And so mm-hmm. That's our focus at the Atlas Society in trying to promote, uh, the values of reason, objectivity, um, productivity, uh, pride in, in, um, achievement and an accomplishment. So, um, with your advice in terms of how to reach young people, we'll, uh, we'll keep at it and hopefully, um, continue to make a difference. Uh, finally, you're one of the most prolific academics when it comes to writing for those scholarly and popular audiences. I know right now you're, um, focused on, uh, the many interviews that you're getting about your current book. And, um, we're gonna put that, uh, those links in our, uh, various conversations on the different platforms again. But, um, anything on your bucket list in terms of, uh, areas that you're, you've been thinking about wanting to explore in the future or just, just every generation giving you more material?
Speaker 1 00:58:03 Yeah, they do. And that's actually what I was gonna say. It'll be, um, very interesting to see what ends up shaping Polars or Alphas, you know, those after Gen Z. Um, given what I do, I have to, you know, wait a few years until they're gonna be old enough to fill out those surveys. But there's, there's data beginning. Um, those who are in eighth grades, we don't have to wait that long, maybe five years, six years, we'll have a better picture. And the other thing I'm really focused on is, um, giving, giving talks on this material and often, um, talks about generations that end with a question that's on a lot of people's minds, which is how to find a balance with technology. Interesting. Because, you know, technology's not going away and there's a lot of good things about it, but many people, including a lot of young people, feel like it's taken over their lives. And in writing this book, it helped me see both the upsides and downsides of technology. And I've realized, you know, here's the dilemma that we're in right now. That technology, like say better medical care has given us longer lives. It has saved us from drudgery in many ways, but what are we going to do with that extra time, those years, and those hours of our days? Because if the answer is watching a lot of TikTok videos, that's probably not the right answer.
Speaker 0 00:59:25 I agree. But you guys can go and watch, um, Ayn Rand clips on TikTok. Yeah, that's allowed 20 minute, 20 minutes max a day. So, all right. Well, thank you. Thank you so much, professor. Uh, really appreciate this was just a magnificent interview. We learned so much, and I wanna encourage everyone watching and listening to go out and, uh, check out Jean Twangs books on Amazon and on her, uh, website. It's jean twangy.com, right? That's right. There you go. All right. Thank you. And thanks to everyone who joined, um, with all of your great questions. If, uh, you enjoyed this video, if you enjoyed the Atlas Society asks series, uh, any of our other programming, please consider making a tax deductible [email protected]
. And make sure to tune in next week. I am going to be off my colleague, senior fellow, uh, Robert Tki will host a special discussion on art and aesthetics on the Atla Society asks, see you then.