Generation WE Around the World
Posted by: eric on October 29, 2009 at 4:08 pm
In the book I primarily focus on Millennials in the United States. But we live in an increasingly interdependent world, and American Millennials themselves believe that they are called to work with their counterpart from other nations and continents. We cannot—and must not—ignore the important role that youth from around the world will play in shaping the decades to come. Let’s take a brief detour into the world of Millennials outside the United States. As you’ll see, there are some notable similarities—as well as some striking differences.
First, whereas American Millennials are children of both the outsized Baby Boom generation and significant immigration from Latin America and Asia (which accounts, in large part, for their vast numbers), global Millennials are the offspring of a world in which fertility rates have generally been on the decline, especially in the develop in world. Nonetheless, the number of young people around the world who are currently under the age of 30 is still huge, more than half of the world’s population. In 2005, the median age of the world’s population was 28 and falling. Current estimates suggest that the number of people in the world in their twenties (which does not include the youngest Millennials, now 19 and 20 years old) is over 1.1 billion, or nearly 17 percent of the total population.
Second, in cultural and social terms, it seems likely that most non-U.S. Millennials are several years “younger” than their American counterparts. As generational scholars Neil Howe and William Strauss explain in their study Millennials Rising, this fits the differing historical circumstances they and their parents experienced in the post–World War II period. The affluence, security, and freedom that characterized life in the United States during the 1950s (and which shaped the world of the Baby Boomers) came later to Europe and Asia. Therefore, young people outside the United States are still catching up to Americans in terms of their social and cultural characteristics.
But they’re catching up fast. Thanks to the Internet and other global communications technologies, youth culture is rapidly becoming a planetary rather than national or regional culture. As Howe and Strauss put it (at a time when Generation We was still mostly in its early teens), “Millennials are today forging a mind-set borrowed from bits and pieces of their countries of origin. The amalgam is part Ricky Martin, part Harry Potter, part Lego, part Kwanzaa, and part Pokémon.”
The crucial point is Generation We around the world is an incredible force, and one that sees itself as a single, closely linked generation with much more in common than dividing them. They all watch TV together, go online together, and swap ideas and information continually. As a result, they will make crucial social and political decisions within a framework that is multicultural and planetary rather than nationalistic, making their combined global power even greater.