JUDY WOODRUFF: America's younger generation, there's something different about them: we see them talking and "text messaging" on their cell phones, even as they're wired to the music on their iPods. We know how to spot them, but do we really know much about them? We were curious, and set out to discover who they are, what turns them on, and off - and what do they think about themselves, and the world around them?
BRENT WILLIAMS: The times are so different and what's expected of us is so different.
ADORA MORA: Quick, fast and a hurry is pretty much our motto."
GABE BALLEJOS: We're trying. I know were trying. And that's all any generation can really do.
GENEVIEVE SPARLING: You gotta love what you do and do what you love. And as soon as you don't anymore, find something else.
This program was made possible by: the pew charitable trusts, serving the public interest through information, policy solutions and support for public life;
The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Annie E. Casey Foundation
JUDY WOODRUFF: Hello, I'm Judy Woodruff. There are 42 million people in the United States between the ages of 16 and 25.
Often catered to by their parents, and always coveted by advertisers, they nonetheless, are not widely understood. The world they live in and will inherit has grown smaller -- but its problems -- arguably more complex.
Like every generation, they face decisions about school, job, friendships, love and money. But also like every generation, unique events and challenges define the choices they can make.
The greatest generation came of age during the depression and led America to victory in World War II. Many baby boomers took to the streets to end a war, help fight for civil rights and liberate women. And Generation X saw the birth of the internet, the start of the aids epidemic, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It's this tangled web of the Boomers' social consciousness and Generation X that gave birth to the current generation of 16-25 year olds.
Sociologists and demographers call them "Generation Y" or "the Millenials," but no name has really stuck. So we're calling them "Generation Next."
Are they up to the challenges ahead? To find out … this past summer we criss-crossed the country with an RV -- specially equipped with an interactive video kiosk, so we could hear what hundreds of Gen Nexters had to say.
Along the way we spent time profiling some very special people…and we polled even more with the help of the Pew Research Center.
It is hard, if not impossible to characterize an entire generation. But one thing we can say for certain is that Generation Next is filled with contradictions …as you will see and hear directly from them.
Careers and cash flows
JOHN FISKE: All right San Diego. What's happening? This is Gen Y Radio …
JUDY WOODRUFF: We begin in California …with John Fiske, Brent Williams and Kris White, hosts of a popular weekly radio program focusing on issues affecting their generation.
JOHN FISKE: We have got the famous, the infamous, the one and only, the wonderful, Jean Twenge on the line. Jean Twenge, Ph.D., might I add, from San Diego State University. Jean, are you with us?
JEANE TWENGE: I hope so.
JOHN FISKE: Hey Jean, how you doing? What's that sort of first
phrase on your book? It says "Generation Me." And then
it describes the generation in like two sentences. You say confident,
assertive and more entitled than ever before.
JEANE TWENGE: Yeah. So confident, which is, maybe, the good way to put it. And then the entitlement is when that can cross over into the negative. When it becomes give me everything I want. And I expect so much out of the world and so on.
JOHN FISKE: So you think we're slightly spoiled, superficial and self centered?
JEANE TWENGE: I actually think spoiled isn't quite right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are they spoiled, stressed, acting entitled … or optimistic and self-confident?
One thing is for sure … young people live in a world of endless choices … from the number of ways they can take their coffee, communicate with their friends or earn a living.
If they don't like what they've chosen, no problem, they'll just start all over again. And while they're making up their minds they can drive their parents and their employers crazy.
JO MUSE: Some of you ask for vacations in your first two months of working here. Now, your bosses, boomers, they don't understand that at all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jo Muse holds monthly meetings with the young
employees at his Hollywood advertising firm … trying to better
understand the generational tug-of-war between them and their
JO MUSE: Why do you think that you can work places for a couple of months and then get a vacation? And unpaid. You don't care if you get paid. What's up with that? I don't understand it.
ERIKA: You see, we're bred on like, MTV, and things in the media, and -- and magazines. And you see Lindsay Lohan, who's 19, and she makes this amount of money, and she spends weekends in San Tropez. And then you have Puffy, who's 40, who's a multi-millionaire. And you have all -- those are our heroes. So, the idea of -- working 10 years at a mediocre job, to possibly have three or four weeks of vacation is not everything that we've ever experienced, in terms of growing up has been microwavable and what we're striving for is to be millionaires and fantastically successful by the age of 40.
ERIKA: You know. (laughter)
JO MUSE: I'm betting the farm that your parents have spoiled you, at least your bosses think that way, because of the sense of entitlement. They're thinking that you have to have everything that you want and you've got to have it now. You'll submit yourself to the authority, but you give the sense immediately, that we ain't the boss of you.
And boomers recognize that the boss is the boss. So, what's that all about?
MALE: Well, I think the difference is now -- the boomers, they let their job define them a lot longer. We have so many choices. My job doesn't define who I am.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Muse Communications is not alone trying to cope
with the arrival of Generation Next in the workplace. Companies
large and small are faced with the unique demands and contributions
of their younger employees.
LISA HIGAKI: We multi-task, and we have a lot of side things that we do. At the same time, I think, a lot of people are very idealistic, and they're going to college, and they're graduating, and they're crying in their rooms, because they can't find a job that gives them meaning and purpose in life.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Twenty-four-year-old Lisa Higaki is an assistant account executive for Muse Communications.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do you think you're typical of your generation or different? What do you think?
LISA HIGAKI: I guess wanting instant gratification, living in like, a fast-paced life kind of thing. I think I'm typical in that sense. But when Jo talks about like, no one's the boss of me, kind of thing, and not feeling like you have to work hard, I think that that's -- that's not me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: When we talked to Mr. Muse, your boss, about you,
he said, oh, Lisa's very hard working. She's somebody I want to
have stay here for a long time. He said, she could be president
of this company. He said, by 2010 even.
LISA HIGAKI: Interesting. Like everyone asks, like, So, Lisa, you know, what are you gonna do 10 years from now? And I'm like, that question just freaks me out. I just don't know where I'm gonna be in 10 years. I like -- I like what I'm doing now. I like being active in my church -- in my community.
LISA HIGAKI: I don't think I've ever known a moment without god in my life. It's just been my personal kind of identity.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you do in your free time?
Generation Next in debt
LISA HIGAKI: Two times a week are devoted to the youth. Friday night is the big youth kind of fellowship. Thursday nights I have the bible studies with my girls. Sundays I have church. The rest of the week kind of depends. Maybe I'll call up my sister, call my friends. Go hang out somewhere like old town.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And when she's not involved with her church, Lisa enjoys hanging out with her sister Lauren in places like Old Town Pasadena.
For them and other members of Generation Next … shopping is not
a spectator sport. They are the targets of marketers and retailers.
And no wonder. Two years ago they spent a jaw-dropping $485 billion
on everything from clothing to lattes to iPods. And then there's
JUDY WOODRUFF: You owe some money for college? Your college education?
LISA HIGAKI: Yeah.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You owe any other money?
LISA HIGAKI: I am in the process of paying off a credit card. Because I went on this trip to Europe. I spent more than I needed to.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you know how much you owe overall?
LISA HIGAKI: Ahhhh, I'm not sure -- maybe $16,000?
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that doesn't worry you?
LISA HIGAKI: No. Just because I'm -- I'm on a plan. And the monthly payments aren't that big. Of course I have to pay the bills. And so, when that time comes, you always kind of wonder or worry about that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa's money issues are shared by many Gen Nexters. College now costs an average of over $30,000 a year for a private four year school, or close to $13,000 for a public institution.
And the two-thirds of students who carry loans leave four year schools owing about $19,000 … that's almost 60 percent higher than a decade ago. And on top of that … 18 to 25 year olds owe nearly $2,800 in credit card debt.
JANE BUCKINGHAM: What do you guys think is sort of the biggest
stress in your life right now?
MALE: It's just mostly bill stuff and trying to get by on, you know, small wages and what-not.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Focus groups similar to this one, help marketing consultants like Jane Buckingham develop strategies for advertisers interested in the youth market.
JANE BUCKINGHAM: It's so sad. The amount of debt that they have
is overwhelming. They see it as a huge problem. They all wish
that hindsight were 20/20. Because they've all by 25 gotten into
debt. It's school loans, which you could argue isn't really their
fault. It's furnishing their apartment and not realizing how much
their cell phone bill is. They've never been taught to really
manage their money. And yet they're given free reign to spend
JUDY WOODRUFF: Twenty-five-year-old Anya Kamenetz wrote the book on her generation's debt.
ANYA KAMENETZ: If you graduate from college you're likely to
have loans to pay off which is right away something that detracts
from your ability to take risks and to move forward with your
own plan. The whole premise of Generation Debt the book is, you
know, what does it mean to be part of this generation, the first
generation that's going to do worse than our parents did.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Partly due to these economic pressures, Generation Next is getting married and having children later. With rents and starter homes generally unaffordable … many, like Lisa's sister Lauren, move back home while they're in transition.
LAUREN HIGAKI: I think my dad would rather have me, if I'm going to be staying with them, take advantage of that opportunity to save up my own money, so that further down the road, I could, you know, invest in my home. It's a good time for me to expand my career because I'm single. And I'm not really tied down to anywhere. So I kind of have the freedom to do that.
Pursuing careers they love
JUDY WOODRUFF: As they set out on careers, Gen Nexters are changing jobs more frequently than prior generations, in part because many place a higher value on job satisfaction than on job security.
GENEVIEVE SPARLING: You got to love what you do and do what you love. And as soon as you don't anymore, find something else.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And for now, college graduate Genevieve Sparling is doing what she loves …writing for television. And fellow graduate Brendan Docherty is also pursuing his passion, a career in…video games?
BRENDAN DOCHERTY: What do I do here? You know, video games or law school? Video games, law school?
Video games are kind of - it's, it's a new medium. It's gonna be to the 21st century what film was to the 20th century. The older generations don't understand it. It's kind of like what rock 'n' roll was in the '50s or jazz was in the '20s.
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