An HR Glossary for HR Terms
Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
What is Generation Y or Gen Y?
Generation Y Overview
Generation Y, also known as Millennials, is a demographic categorization of people born after Generation X and before Generation Z. These people were generally born in the 1980s through the late 1990s and are most often the children of Baby Boomers.
Having come of age with the internet and smartphones, Generation Y are digital natives. They’ve been greatly impacted by world events like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Dot-com Boom, and the Great Recession of 2008. Gen Y is more likely than previous generations to be comfortable on social media, with over half having posted a selfie.
Gen Y is the largest demographic cohort in the US, with more than 80 million people falling into this age range.
Is Gen Y the Same as Millennials?
Yes. Gen Y is the same as Millennials. The two terms can be used interchangeably to describe people born between the 1980s and late 1990s, though this can change depending on location.
When Did Gen Y Change to Millennials?
Initially, the group born after Generation X was coined Gen Y because it was the next letter progression in the current naming schema. In the late 1990s, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe coined the term “Millennials” to describe the generation coming of age at the beginning of the 21st century. It gained popularity with journalists and media in the early 2000s, and since then, both terms have been used to describe this generation. However, Millennials has become more popular.
Why Are Millennials Not Called Gen Y?
While both millennials and Gen Y are still used to describe this demographic cohort, the Millennials label has gained more popularity and recognition in media, gradually replacing Gen Y within the U.S. However, internationally Gen Y is used more frequently.
Read our glossary entry on Millennials to learn more about the use of the term.
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What Is the Gen Y Age Range?
Most sources list the age range for the Gen Y demographic cohort between 1981 and 1997, though it can vary.
The Pew Research Trust lists the birth date range as being from 1981 to 1996. William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors who coined the term “Millennials,” list the birth date range as being between 1982 and 2004. Meanwhile, other sources list the range as 1980 to 2000 or 1977 to 1995.
What Are General Characteristics of Gen Y?
Like all generations, Gen Y has unique characteristics that are shaped by the cultural and political events, trends, and social norms they faced as they came of age. Some of the defining traits of Gen Y include the following:
- Adaptive and creative: Many Millennials were graduating high school and college at the start of the Great Recession. They entered the workforce at a unique time. This pressure likely led Gen Y to become more entrepreneurial, with 36 percent of Gen Y showing an entrepreneurial spirit, more than any other generation.
- Well educated: Millennials are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher than previous generations. Thirty-nine percent of millennials have some sort of post-secondary education, with huge gains for women completing college degrees compared to previous generations.
- Tech savvy: Members of Gen Y are the first generation to grow up with widespread access to the internet, smartphones, and other digital technologies. As a result, they are more likely to be proficient with technology than previous generations and rely on digital devices for communication, entertainment, and information.
- Equality minded: Gen Y is more accepting and tolerant of diverse lifestyles than previous generations. Millennials are more likely to support issues such as the rights of LGBTQ+ people, gender equality and racial diversity.
- Financially insecure: Because Generation Y came of age during the recession, their financial independence has had some unique challenges. Their starting wage earnings were lower than some previous generations (when adjusted for inflation), making Gen Y more likely to live with their parents for longer, rent, and delay major life events than previous generations.
- Collaborative: Gen Y is known for its preference for teamwork and collaboration over competition and individual achievement. This generation is more likely to prioritize group goals and collective success over personal gain. They are also more likely to push for changes to the workforce like work-life balance and supporting alternative schedules.
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