The room was full of data-heads. Everybody there spoke “numbers” fluently. So we started there – big generations, small ones, how peacetime and good economies make birthrates go up while wars and uncertain economies drive fertility down.
As a result, Millennials are today's official gorilla gen with Gen Z positioned to out-number them. Meanwhile Boomer numbers continue an inevitable decline (mortality, you know) and Gen X holds the middle steady.
To my audience, these numbers are more than cocktail-party banter. The 2020 Census is coming, and government is required to count
in a nation of 330 million people.
Big Numbers. High Stakes.
The very idea is staggering, and the stakes are high. 700 billion in federal funds. school lunches, Head-Start programs, classrooms, courthouses, transportation corridors, jobs, development zones, housing, agriculture, urban boom, redrawn voting districts and reapportioned representatives in DC. Census numbers matter.
Here’s were generations come into play. Millennials and Gen Zs were undercounted in the 2010 Census and are likely to be even harder to find in 2020. Kids under 5, kids under 10, kids living in two homes, Hispanic and black kids—these children escape the count, in part because it is hard to find and count their Millennial mothers.
Under the Radar: Millennials and Their Children
Millennials sit at a confluence of factors that make them hard to count. Compared to other generations, more households headed by Millennials live in poverty. That’s right, forget the rich-kid, entitled Millennial stereotypes. To poverty, add diversity, renting rather than owning, and multi-generational households, and you’ve got a few million 24- to 37-year-olds who may not be counted in 2020 along with their Gen Z children.
Millennials sit at a confluence of factors that make them hard to count--poverty, diversity, renting rather than owning, multi-gen households and lack of civic trust.
Then there’s trust. Trust in government has fallen with each successive generation since the GI gen who fought World War II. Gen Xers trust government less than Boomers, Millennials trust government less than Gen X, and so forth. Each younger gen has less trust that government will do the right or effective thing, and less trust that personal information will be secure. Gen Z is the least trusting of all. (Ironically, both Millennials and Gen Z want a more activist government, but that's another story.)
In generational studies, these trends in civic trust are predictable, but that doesn’t make them easy to navigate for the audience I’m privileged to talk with this day. They worry that civic trust will count for even more than before because, while for the first time people can answer census questions online, there’s not a lot of trust about the security of personal information online in any form. This is compounded by a potential question about citizenship that may discourage millions more.
Long story short, 3% to 8% of Gen Zs and Millennials are likely to go uncounted, making them essentially invisible. What will this mean for your city, your region or your family? Can the Census Bureau do anything to enhance trust? Is public trust likely to rebound in your generation?
Is your generation invisible? what does this mean for your city, your region or your family? Continue the conversation below. don't forget to add the generation YOU CALL HOME.
AMY LYNCH PIONEERED GEN IQ, THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF GENERATIONAL STUDIES TO LEADERSHIP, MARKETING AND INNOVATION. CONTACT HER ABOUT YOUR NEXT EVENT OR YOUR BIGGEST GENERATIONAL CHALLENGE.