Millennials are made fun of for their lack of altruism, often described as the “me me me generation”. But despite the numerous anecdotes and memes, are Millenials really that self-centered? A new study found that this isn’t an easy question to answer. However, if we’re to make broad conclusions, Millenials are indeed slightly less likely than other age groups to donate but when they do, they give more.
Researchers at Princeton University analyzed the charitable behavior of nearly 15,000 U.S. households between 2001 and 2015, a dataset part of the Philanthropy Panel Study. The authors found that “one cannot reject the hypothesis that Millennials donate more than members of earlier generations. However, Millennials are somewhat less likely to make any donations at all than their generational predecessors.”
“While our data do not allow us to explore causal mechanisms, our findings suggest a more nuanced view of the Millennials’ prosocial behavior than is depicted in popular accounts,” the authors wrote.
The authors refrained from making definite conclusions in their study published in the American Behavioral Scientist. The full picture is a bit more complicated because Millenials — the generation born between 1981 and 1996 — are still young. In other words, Millenials have yet to hit their peak earnings years compared to Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers, who technically have more resources at their disposal for philanthropic pursuits. So while Millenials are very active on social media — a medium which is particularly prone to vanity — that doesn’t mean that they do not engage in charitable behavior.
“That said, we think that, at least for the moment, our results place the burden of proof on those who assert that the Millennials are uniquely selfish compared to their generational predecessors,” Harvey S. Rosen, the John L. Weinberg Professor of Economics and Business Policy Emeritus at Princeton University and lead author of the study, told PsyPost.