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S1E4 Millennials Rising

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They’ve found it! Hours of research and hundreds of clicks on Google spam links have led to the beginning. Farrah has found what we believe is the source text. A pseudo ethnography by a economist and a cultural commentator published in 2000. The ur text is (appropriately) called Millennials Rising. Farrah and Adam discuss the book and its background and attempt to track the sources cited within for clues to an earlier text.

During the episode you’ll hear various YouTube clips from the era. The full videos can be found here:
The Capitol Steps performing “401k,” date unknown:
Millennials Coming on 60 Minutes:
Neil Howe and William Strauss discuss the book “Generations” on CPSAN, 1991
Heather McGhee on Millennial Generation, Bill Moyers 2012:
Neil Howe discusses Millennials on 60 Minutes in 2007:
NBC Nightly News – Graduating Millennials and the Job Market, date unknown:

Want to read Millennials Rising for yourself? Find it here on Amazon.

In The Demo, a podcast about how stories of groups are created, subverted and destroyed. On the first season, we pursue the origins of the Millennial Myth. Farrah Bostic is the founder and Head of Research & Strategy of, The Difference Engine, a strategic insights consultancy focused on helping business leaders make decisions. Adam Pierno, author and brand consultant and managing director of brand strategy at Arizona State University. Our host is voiced by Eliza, a robot created by

Music by 0megaMan under the Creative Commons license. Learn more and find research and supporting materials at

Show outline (which is generated by another robot;

0:02 Introductions

7:27 Sources and background from Millennials Rising

14:08 How did you go from being one of the directors of the Capitol Steps to co-author of these books about generations?

20:24 Influence on SteveBannon

26:50 Baby on board

32:29 The dark cloud that hovers over the world.

35:30 Millennials are going to be great consumers, right?

42:09 Who are we talking about when we describe that lived reality?


Eliza T Robot 0:02
Welcome to In the demo, a show about the stories that get told about groups, how those stories got made, what we think those stories get wrong, and why it matters you hosts. Farah Bostick is the founder and head of research and strategy of the difference engine, a strategic insights consultancy focused on helping business leaders make decisions. Adam, piano author and brand consultant and Managing Director of brand strategy at Arizona State University. You are now in the demo.

Adam Pierno 0:38
I’m Adam Pierno I am Generation X.

Farrah Bostic 0:40
And I’m Farrah Bostic. And according to 1993’s AdAge I’m Gen Y.

Adam Pierno 0:47
Oh, nice. Nice. So you took us back in time? How appropriate. Yeah.

Farrah Bostic 0:50
74 to 80. We were Gen Y we’re a tiny tiny microgeneration but I’m sticking with it. I’ve decided to embrace it. I’m a digital native. I love my parents. Everything’s going great.

Adam Pierno 1:02
Are you more diverse than any other generation in history?

Farrah Bostic 1:04
Me specifically? No.

Adam Pierno 1:07
You as generation Y, though.

Farrah Bostic 1:10
You know, I don’t even know if they were making that claim at the time. I think they were just like, they’re definitely different than Gen X. Let’s give them a name.

Adam Pierno 1:17
We don’t know how, yeah, we’re not sure what the years actually are?

Farrah Bostic 1:23
No, we’re gonna go with this six years and see how it feels just walk around and a little bit.

Adam Pierno 1:28
If you are joining us for the first time, you should probably go back and listen. In our last episode, Farrah took us through the pivot from the new golden generation that we were promised, the digital natives, to how the media changed them into people who were thirsty for feedback and praise. And that perceived change in the attitude they showed in governments and all things civics. And that led us to today’s question.

Farrah Bostic 1:53
Yeah, a little bit different. Because obviously, we keep seeing these pivots happen. And so the thing we thought we would do is start with Well, where did this all begin and went looking for what we think is the as you keep putting it, ur text of the millennial myth, and that book seems to be, and I think we’ve alluded to it in a couple of the other episodes, but that book is Millennials Rising. And it was written by Neil Howe and Bill Strauss.

Adam Pierno 2:20
Now, I couldn’t believe you found this as we started having a conversation about the questions we had about millennials and the millennial myth that we’ve already started exploring that you were able to recall this book at all, because now having read through it, it’s so – by today’s standard, and by the volume of business content – I don’t want to dismiss this book as pseudo research, but research strung together with hypothesis and conclusions. That’s not quite scientific standards. It’s pretty forgettable in general,

Farrah Bostic 2:55
I think so. Yeah. And reading it again, it’s sort of like, well, these things are all pretty easily. Some of them are fine. And some of them are pretty easily debunked. And overall, it seems to be a book that can’t decide if it’s actually optimistic about this generation or not, like it sort of wants to be but then has some deep seated fear lurking in every page. But yeah, it’s not a it’s not a flashy book, it I can’t imagine that it was on any bestseller list at the time. Actually, I haven’t looked that up. I don’t even remember to be honest with you how I came to have the book. But I had it.

Adam Pierno 3:26
But you remembered reading it. Yeah. And you remember you recalled reading it, which I don’t? That’s why my mind was a little bit blown. And I was impressed. Farrah, to be honest, I thought like how the hell can she remember this from 20 years ago? It’s it’s somewhat forgettable, although it is seminal.

Farrah Bostic 3:44
I think it’s because it was the first thing I read slash skimmed. And that was trying to put a definition on a whole generation. Like, I hadn’t read any books that were like boomers rising or whatever. And I think that the only other book that could be said that I read that could even loosely fit that definition would be, you know, the Copeland book Gen X. But that’s not really a book about a generation. It’s, it’s not really what’s going on there. And to be honest, I read that book after I read Microserfs. So I think I was doing everything backwards in a certain way. But I think the other thing about it was looking at it and saying, I’m not totally sure if they’re trying to describe me or not, because at the time, there was so much kind of confusion about what Gen Y, millennial, what are we calling people, when are these years? Who’s what? Yes, we’ve talked about this before, I’ve never particularly felt like I fit into Gen X in the way that Gen X had been defined in the media. And then my brother was four years younger than me. And so I was like, what about this checks out from my sample of one who I grew up with? And you know, I think that was part of it. I think the other part of it was it was putting a stake in the ground about these people and what they were like and what they were therefore going to be like, and it struck me at the time as I don’t think there’s any way you can know this. It should come as no surprise that, you know, five years later, I’m working in market research, instead of still trying to be a copywriter in advertising because I’m like, hang on, this doesn’t make any sense. I need to understand more about this. But like that, I think that was part of it as well was that this story struck me as it couldn’t possibly describe the bulk of this group of people they were trying to define, and it couldn’t possibly be steady state. And they couldn’t possibly know what these people were going to be like, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. And so things that get me to have that, “I don’t know if I buy that” response tend to stick in my brain. I think that’s, that’s why

Adam Pierno 5:43

Farrah Bostic 5:43
That’s what I remember

Adam Pierno 5:43
It didn’t stick because you thought it was true, it stuck for the opposite, that you were like, not sold on this. And it kind of stands out because it raised questions.

Farrah Bostic 5:52
Yeah. And then you know, every few years after that you start, you know, even every few years working in the ad business. And then in market research, you get constant onslaught of various trend reports that are telling you about these millennials. And so the interesting thing was seeing these parts of the narrative from Millennials Rising, but stuck, and the parts that quickly got discarded and forgotten. And now we’re talking about something else. And so I’ve just been an amused observer over the years of these kinds of generation definitions, particularly for this one group. And then I think the other side of it, which I feel like we talked about a little bit previously is, it really felt like millennials, as an audience were having being a millennial aggressively marketed to them. And like, you are like this, and so you should behave in these ways. And you should consume these kinds of things, and so on and so forth. And so that

Adam Pierno 6:41
This is the behavior. Yeah.

Clip: 60 Minutes 6:45
They were raised by doting parents, who told them there was special played in little leaves with no winners or losers are all winners. They’re laden with trophies just for participating. And they think your business as usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in the belief, you can take your job and shove it. Corporate America is so unnerved by all this, that companies like Merrill Lynch, Ernst & Young, and Disney and scores of others are hiring consultants to teach them how to deal with this generation that only takes yes for an answer.

Farrah Bostic 7:19
Yeah, and I think this kind of grounds, everything that comes out after that, because it was trying so hard to say, we think we know how this is going to turn out.

Adam Pierno 7:27
Yes, I did do some research into the sources for the book. And I looked, I spent a lot of time in the indices of this book, and there’s no reference to avocado toast at all. So I know they got this whole thing wrong. Yeah, yeah, I totally whiffed on that. Were there books or writings or content that led you to millennial generation as it relates to the millennial audience? In our last talk, we looked at the turn around mid 2000s, early 2000 10s, that the media had that hard pivot, going back in time from 2009 to 2000. Were there other texts that referenced this or that harken back to it in some way that led you to this? Or was it just that recall of reading it when you were, you know, at Chiat? And thinking,

Farrah Bostic 8:19
to be honest, it was just a recall of like, wait a second, I had I had a book that had all this stuff in it. And I gotta go find it again. It was a Google of millennials trust that or parents or something like that millennials trust in government. What I found at that point was a talk given at a university to university leadership about the incoming class of 2004, or something like that.

Adam Pierno 8:41
By Howe and Strauss?

Farrah Bostic 8:42
No, no, no, but it cited to Howe & Struss.

Adam Pierno 8:44
okay, got it.

Farrah Bostic 8:45
And then I was like, ah, that’s the name of that book. And I could kind of picture the book, it was gray like, and it had cartoons in it. That was what I remembered about it. But it had that desktop publishing feel that we’ve talked about before. Like I could kind of picture the book. I could remember what the story of it was, couldn’t really remember what the title was. But that speech then led me to that book.

Adam Pierno 9:07
That’s hilarious that even having read the book, doing the Google Search brought you to the same sort of farcical rabbit hole of like, Oh, yes. It’s this weird myth that they love their parents. That connects back to Millennials Rising, which I don’t want to be dismissive of Millennials Rising, and I don’t want to be rude to the authors. I think they were trying to parse out a huge story from a sample that they estimated could be as big as 100 million people. But we are gonna laugh because there’s, you know, anybody making predictions gets a lot of them wrong. And a lot of them are wrong, or look like they were right at the time. And then you look back at you, oh, I’m not really sure about that.

Clip: Heather McGhee Speech 9:50
And we are known for our sense of entrepreneurship, our volunteerism, our tolerance of diversity, and for being the first generation in American history to not do better than their parents.

Adam Pierno 10:03
Should we start with a little bit more about the authors and how they got to this book?

Farrah Bostic 10:09
Yeah, I mean, they’re they’re an interesting duo for a couple of reasons. And one is that this is not their first book about generations. So this is actually I think, the third book about generations that they wrote. The first one is literally called Generations. The second one is called 13th Gen. Hang on, subtitle, it’s so good 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? Question mark. And it’s about Gen X. Because Gen X was being called lots of things also. And apparently, 13th Gen was one of them.

Adam Pierno 10:41
I’m glad that didn’t stick.

Farrah Bostic 10:43
Yeah. I also think that 13th Gen is somehow, like the 13th generation since the founding or something. It’s it’s a very America centric generation name. But yeah, that didn’t stick. And so then they wrote this book about millennials, they actually coined the term millennials, apparently in like ’87. So when millennials were starting kindergarten, they were already starting to think about that group. That would be the the class of 2000, graduated from high school in 2000. So they’re also the ones who have the most expansive definition of the birth years of millennials. So they go from ’82, ’84 to 2002, or something like that. Or maybe…

Adam Pierno 11:27
It’s a much, much broader look at what the generalization would be. Yeah,

Farrah Bostic 11:31
yeah. Other folks kind of stick with like ’82 to ’96. It depends on the demographer. It depends on the survey, even within organizations like Pew is not always consistent. The census is not always consistent. And no one really has a definition of millennials beyond the birth years, but they have the kind of longest when they make an argument that generations in general are about 20 to 22 years in length. And, and I think some of that is just to kind of keep things consistent. So they have been working on that. Now… Howe, Neil Howe was an economist – is an economist – who was at the time that he wrote 13th Generation was writing a book about federal entitlement programs. So like, you know, that’s his background. That’s where he’s coming from.

Adam Pierno 12:19
Yeah. Hard economic data.

Farrah Bostic 12:21
Yes. Yes. And like looking at looking at the history of those programs. So he’s kind of a, you know, I think probably what’s interesting, then there is, if you’re an economic historian, then these kind of demographic questions probably do interest you. And I think one of the other kind of clues here about why they would care about both Gen X and millennials is that there was in the late 70s, early 80s, there was this concern that baby boomers were not having enough kids, and so they would not have enough tax revenue to support them when they got to retirement age, and that the Social Security program would implode. So I wonder if that’s – I haven’t asked him – but I wonder if that’s like the jumping off point for him. As he’s thinking about entitlement programs, Social Security is kind of one of the biggies there. So maybe that’s part of what he was thinking about of you know, so what’s going on with these additional generations? Are there enough of them to sustain baby boomers when they hit 65? What are we going to do about all that? Now, Bill Strauss, on the other hand, his author credit in the back of the book, is that he was one of the directors of the Capitol steps. Which if you’re not a PBS nerd from the 80s, you may not have heard of, or not from the DC area, then you may not have heard of them. The Capitol steps are this like, I want to call them the Second City of DC. But I’m not sure that’s right, either. It’s more like if you’ve ever been to, like dinner theater in a small town. Yeah. A small city. Yeah.

Clip: Capitol Steps Song 13:53
Boomer! Call your broker to check on a rumor! That could cause you to lose your good humor! When you see your next statement, you’ll see which bonds have paid off! Savings…

Adam Pierno 14:08
Or like those those mystery dinner floor shows that you could get in almost any town with like a murder mystery dinner theater, like it’s that kind of thing, but for politics,

Farrah Bostic 14:17
But for politics, there’s a lot of songs, it’s a lot of you know, attempts at some successful some not at satire of whoever’s currently running Washington and yeah, it’s it’s very special.

Adam Pierno 14:34
It’s it is something.

Farrah Bostic 14:35
Very particular they apparently shut down in 2020 the pandemic hit them hard. And so the Capitol steps are no more

Adam Pierno 14:44
Boo… Thye live on forever in our hearts.

Farrah Bostic 14:49
Exactly. But so it’s you know, it’s it’s too bad. I think that you recently found out that that Bill Strauss passed which is you know, obviously sad anyway, but also sad because I would have loved to ask him, How do you go from being one of the directors of the Capitol Steps to co author of these books about generations?

Adam Pierno 15:12
Yeah, that path is is would be an interesting conversation to learn more about, and the partnership with Howe I also would be interested to know how the economist and cultural commentator, you know, is that the is that the alignment? That’s how the that’s how the book reads, it reads like, the hypothesis was created by the economist and the cultural commentator did the writing and work. Yeah, cuz what the research feels directional. And to be fair, like you’re talking about in the year 2000, you’re talking about people that are really hard to measure, because they’re not part of the census. They’re not part of they’re not mature. So they’re not part of surveys they’re not over 18, they’re hard to reach. So a lot of it is pretty directional. And and I went through and spent some time in the sources for the book that they cite. And if you go back and you really dig into the sources they cite, a lot of the sources are their own books, you know, primary sources are their own writing. They cite Generations, they cite 13th Gen, The Fourth Turning, the sources are also in a book written by an economist, I would expect a certain type of rigor for citing and footnotes, and, you know, really being clear about sources, but it’s more thematic. Yeah, kind of like chapter one, we talk about this and this and this, and that touched on the census, and it touched on this survey we did and trust us the survey is good. It’s really loosey goosey, which your reaction to it in the year 2000 at 20, something years old, was the reaction that I would think a critical thinker would have. But as we said, this is the ur-text. This is the seminal text, the media or somebody, I can’t say the media, it got picked up. And a lot of the stories in here were what got copy pasted forward.

Farrah Bostic 17:11
And I think a lot of it is the, you know, it is a book. It’s a it’s not a short book. It does cite data in the passages of the book. You’re right, the the endnotes and footnotes are kind of difficult to parse and figure out okay, you reference that you looked at some source, but I have no idea where to go look inside that source to figure out. And it’s also not even clear, like which sentence of that chapter are you referring to when you say that you relied on the Census for it. So there’s, there’s a kind of rigor problem in the back end. But if you’re just looking to get someone who’s done the work for you, or appears to have done the work for you, to tell you what this generation is all about this book appears to have done that.

Adam Pierno 17:53
Yeah, it answers the questions if you’re if you’re looking for someone to spoon feed you. It does that.

Farrah Bostic 18:00
Yes. And I think the fact that they wrote Generations and 13th Gen previously, that gives you some sort of sense of like, well, this is the third book they’ve written about generations. So they this is their thing like this is this is what they’re experts in.

Clip: Neil Howe 18:13
One of the things to understand is that most historians never look at history in terms of generations. They prefer to tell history as a seamless row of 55 year old leaders who always tend to think and behave the same way. But they don’t and they never have. If you look at the way America’s 55 year old leaders were acting in the 1960s, you know, the ebullient confidence of the JFKs and LBJs and Hubert Humphreys and compare them with today’s leaders in Congress, the indecision the the lack of surefootedness I think you have to agree that 55 year olds do not always act the same way. And you’re dealing with powerful generational forces at work that explain why one generation of war veterans and war heroes and another generation which came of age in very different circumstances than they have different instincts.

Farrah Bostic 19:06
I also think it’s, it’s worth mentioning two additional things about the books that they have written together. And one is just that Generations also has an excellent subtitle in its scope, and sweep and ambition, which is “The History of America’s Future: 1584 to 2069”.

Adam Pierno 19:24
Yo, but seriously, I want to read that book, that the history of America’s future, I want to read the hell out of that book.

Farrah Bostic 19:31
I mean, yes, absolutely. You want to pick that thing up.

Adam Pierno 19:34

Farrah Bostic 19:34
The second thing is, they also wrote a book before actually, they wrote Millennials Rising. So I guess actually Millennials Rising is their fourth book. The third book is called The Fourth Turning. And I think this is why I flip these around. It also has a fairly audacious subtitle, which is “An American Prophecy: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny”. And I think the fun fact everyone’s didn’t know about this book is it’s a favorite of Steve Bannon, poor Neil Howe has had to write columns saying, I understand that Steve Bannon really likes this book. And here’s some things I might like to say about that.

Adam Pierno 20:13
Yes, backing away backing a way

Farrah Bostic 20:16
Backing away while also promoting the reprints. So like,

Adam Pierno 20:19
Right. You gotta, you gotta, you gotta pay that bill. Bannon likes it, because it has an economist tied to it. I don’t know that Bannon necessarily likes the theories that are put forth in it, because any other reason, then, oh, I can reference things in here that I can shape to my, my own points, and reference Howe and Strauss so there’s an economist tied to it. It’s not, it’s not me, I’m connecting it to something assuming there’s the type of rigor behind it, which is what I think is true for the reasons Millennials Rising got picked up. People are like, Oh, it’s because two people, there’s an economist involved. And it’s not everybody is Freakonomics. It’s not all that level of rigor and scientific checks and balances. And I don’t think any of their four books would meet the academic standard. They’re not none of them are published by a university or by an Academic Press.

Farrah Bostic 21:12
No, no. And I think the other thing about the fourth turning is that they’re sort of making some predictions. And I think Bannon thought that he could accelerate those predictions, that he and others could kind of hasten the fourth turning, which he thinks will bring about the things that he wants in American society. And they are in their solidly in the predictions business. Every everyone on podcasts, for the last five years has been saying, I’m no longer in the predictions business. But these guys have been firmly in the predictions business for 30 years, they focus this on thinking about these kind of epochs of American history and the people coming up within those epochs. So they’re thinking about generations as, as the drivers of each of these turnings, and you know, for whatever reason, they’re deeply interested in these cohorts of people as both explanatory of the of America’s past and also predictors of America’s future. And that that seems to be I would imagine also as like a reporter, or a commentator reading these books, that that’s all very sexy as hell. Like, it’s just like, ooh, someone’s making a prediction. Somebody’s got an overarching theory about how generations work. All this is great.

Adam Pierno 22:28
Yes, it is juicy copy for a copy desk editor, or somebody creating a segment, especially at that time, you know, 2000 was not quite the birth of but the taking off the launch point for 24 hour news cycle with cable news. And the internet was just maturing. So having that kind of juicy lead to fill in. Oh, we don’t have any, you know, there’s no crime happening that we can report on. Here’s a juicy story where we can pit a generation against someone and make a prediction. Yeah. And we’re not liable for

Farrah Bostic 23:00
somebody else. Right, exactly. And also, it’s not disconnected from the crime beat. Like if you think about the like, it’s 10pm. Do you know where your children are kind of trope, Action News, Eyewitness News, whatever. This is about our children at the point in time when this is coming out. Millennials are still mostly kids, a few of them are heading off to college, but most of them are still in middle school. Some of them are still in kindergarten, we are we are worrying about and projecting forward the future of America’s children.

Clip: 60 Minutes 23:27
The oldest are barely out of college, the youngest still in grade school. And whether you call them echo boomers, Generation Y or millennials, they already make up nearly a third of the US population and spend $170 billion a year of theirs and their parents money. Almost none of it on boring things like mortgages and medication. They’re a reflection of the sweeping changes in American life over the past 20 years. The first to grow up with computers at home, and a 500 Channel TV universe. Multitaskers with cell phones, music, downloads, and instant messaging on the internet, totally plugged in citizens of a worldwide community.

Adam Pierno 24:13
You know what, even now that you’re just now, you’re saying that we’ve been talking about this for six months. It’s just dawning on me that you read this book around 2000. And it’s about millennials who are called that because that’s the class that is going to graduate like they have not graduated high school for the most part, depending on how you drag the shoulders of the generation out. So it really I still think of it as millennials that I know as adults. Even though we’re looking back in time, it is important context to realize they were talking about these future forecasts of 10th graders. Yeah, you know, high school sophomores.

Farrah Bostic 24:52
Yeah, this is also related to because, you know, one of the other kind of questions we had is where did even their thinking kind of come from I mean, obviously, there’s the research they did. And there’s all those studies that they cite. But there are themes in the book that are really present. And like almost every page, they come up. And one is the, for want of a better term, the browning of America, right, the eventual majority minority status of white folks in America.

The other is falling fertility rates. So women having fewer and fewer children on average, you know, this had been going on for quite some time, right? Like the immigration surge happens after, I think it’s like 1965, there’s a change in the immigration laws, and there’s a surge in global immigration to the US 71, the birth rate dips below two per per woman, we’re below replacement of a pair. And, and that has kind of continued to sort of subtly decline over the years.

And so there’s a lot of anxiety about that, because of concerns like, you know, if you’re an economic historian who’s concerned with federal entitlement programs, you’re looking at that going, Who will pay for the baby boomers retirement, you know, like it is if we don’t have enough children, who’s paying for it. And then you have other racial things going on there, and whose definition of what America really is going on there.

And, and then the third thing seems to be this idea that baby boomers having kids in the 70s didn’t like children or care about them very much, baby boomers having children in the 80s, suddenly, were very concerned about their kids. And we’ve talked about this before, the symbol that keeps being used in the Millennials Rising book is the baby on board sign in the back of a station wagon or a minivan. And sort of the idea that boomers went from, you know, only caring about themselves to their lives and universes revolving around these children is also a cultural observation that I think is is informing a lot of what’s going on in the book,

Adam Pierno 26:50
The baby on board thing, we’ve referenced it in earlier conversations, and they hammer that so hard, it’s in every chapter of the book, I’m pretty sure. They hate it. I absolutely hate that sign. They don’t want people to have it. It makes me wonder boomers suddenly can cover this, basically a 20 year span. And halfway through, something changed about their parenting that led to this observation about this smaller segment, which is like six years. But we still don’t look back at how we categorize boomers, we still categorize that as this huge window of time. Instead of saying like, Oh, wait a minute, all the kids born in this time from this group of people, like you can easily break boomers into two groups now, because you could look back with historical data and do like a really clean read and have a really good sample to do that. But we don’t do that. We just want to look forward and be like, hey, the end is nigh, where, you know, the future’s bright, but the end is nigh. This generation’ll save us.

Farrah Bostic 27:55
Yes. God, my least favorite phrase in American language. I mean, there is this amnesia about what we were saying five minutes ago.

Adam Pierno 28:06
And we refuse to go back and address it or fix it or suggest we should have broken that out. Like maybe we were wrong about Gen X. God forbid anybody talks about Gen X. And I’m Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder.

Farrah Bostic 28:17
Wait, is there – there’s a Gen X?

Adam Pierno 28:20
Oh, I mean, the Jordan Catalano generation.

Farrah Bostic 28:27
It’s the best meme about generations is like, Okay, here’s the population sizes of the living generations and like a very few Greatest Generation, baby boomers, millennials, they just skipped Gen X.

Adam Pierno 28:39
Yeah, there’s just a question mark in there. Yeah. Like, who cares? All they’re doing is carrying the economy. There are some themes that they’ve put forth in Millennials rising, that the babies on board thing, I don’t remember, I remember those going way. And I remember sort of a cultural backlash about them. But not on that time that to this book. But there are some other elements like the idea of parents coddling their kids is a theme. And that generation of baby boomers coddling their millennial kids, and therefore those kids are X, Y, or Z, which, as we talked about last time, means that now as their manager you have to coddle them. That’s a problem. But in the year 2000, and Millennial Rising, it actually meant Oh, no, because they were so nurtured, they are loving and trusting and optimistic.

Farrah Bostic 29:38
Yes, and even a little bit like there’s an intimation of obedience, right – that they because they trust authority, they will do what authority says, and their rule followers. I mean, that’s a whole section in the Millennials Rising book is about them being rule followers, and the evidence of that is there you know, they were as a generation were more likely to be wearing uniforms to school, which of course was not their choice. They weren’t like give me some rules to follow, I want to wear skirts that are no shorter than this and no longer than that. That’s the force that gives my life meaning. They were told what to wear, and had no choice. And if you didn’t, you got sent home from school. Like these, these were just put on them, not something that they opted into. But those kinds of representations of them were like, they were going to be great when they hit the workforce, because they were going to be ambitious, and goal oriented, and trusting and obedient. And like…

Adam Pierno 30:29
It’s all the things America wants from its consumers.

Farrah Bostic 30:32

Adam Pierno 30:33
you know, just, I’m picturing John Carpenter’s They Live, you know, Obey. Consume. Procreate.

Farrah Bostic 30:40

But But I think that, you know, going back to like how this book without being particularly famous, is nevertheless present in all of that early coverage of millennials as a generation and still is in is embedded in the narrative about millennials is partly because it pulls together all these different threads, it pulls together, the diversity, immigration, you know, the, the, the Echo boom piece, the the kind of rising academic standards, the decline in crime, the decline in childhood drug use, like all of these things that were really giving them, you know, anxiety about Gen Xers has started to subside. And that birth dearth, that, that rapidly declining birth rates started to bump up a little bit in the 80s, you know, the mid 80s, into the 90s. And so it’s like, here’s the grand unified theory that explains all of this, and also tells you what it means. Yes, and so instead of,

Adam Pierno 31:42
We want to, we want that I want that, I want someone to tell them, like connect all this for me, it’s, I find it helpful.

Farrah Bostic 31:47
And so it gives you kind of, and the other thing that’s fascinating about it is like it’s a kind of official posture is it wants to be optimistic, the diversity, the immigration story, the all of that is, is like, in general, a good thing. And they have these passages where they talk about if everything goes well, this will be the next greatest generation, they will be heroes, and literally call them literally say they will be heroes. And yet, there’s still this but dark warning of if something happens, that’s bad, they could become a really dangerous group of people, because there are so many of them, and they are so diverse. And they have been pulled in all these ways. And dangerous

Adam Pierno 32:28
is a weird, it is implied. The way that they would be dangerous and to whom they would be dangerous is is implied in the book. But it’s not explicit in the book that what that really means but there is this dark cloud that hovers over everything is awesome. Except, yes, if something should happen, which I mean, 911 happens, the recession happens, which, which we covered at length in the last episode, that, of course, bad things are gonna happen. We’re not in this. I know, when this was published, the wall had just come down in Berlin. So it was that global prosperity forever theory, which I wish that

Farrah Bostic 33:04
true. Yeah, it’s all like end of history in the last man stuff. This is all looking like America won. And now it’s just eternal optimism forever. Okay, but you know, they’re not they’re clearly not stupid, because they they allude to this possibility that something could go wrong. And I think you’re right, they don’t come out and say what the danger exactly is. But the danger is pretty clear, right? These these kids who trust their parents and government and institutions who are generally obedient and optimistic, could experience something that makes them deeply pessimistic and lose trust in those institutions and turn on gas. Right, that’s the risk and there are so many of them that we will be overrun.

Adam Pierno 33:44
And the implication that they set forth, which is what is what gets picked up in coverage we talked about last year, when the when the narrative pivot happens is that they have been coddled, and if we stop coddling them, if they stopped feeling nurtured and hugged, they are going to run amok. And they are going to do things like kill the toilet paper industry, and kill, you know, the restaurant industry, and they’re going to push back on the labor. You know, it’s like, Well, I think that’s what people do. That’s not because they’re millennials. They’re going to ask for the human rights that they have been afforded up till now. And they’re not going to want to give any of those back.

Farrah Bostic 34:23
I think that’s such an interesting point. And I hadn’t really thought about it till you just said that of like, part of the promise of both Millennials rising and the the articles and think pieces and books that came out after that were this idea of them being excellent consumers, right, that they would be, first of all, big consumers lots, lots of spending, lots of buying stuff, very acquisitive. That was this great opportunity. And that if and you know so marketers have for the last 20 Some years been really focused on how to capture Millennials as their audience and as their path to grow. Both and some of the kind of early white papers from brands that you see are actually, hilariously like I was looking at this the other day, like from wine trade organizations, who are like, What kind of wine will Millennials drink? Like, how do millennials think about wine? It’s like, What a weird thing. But like, they’re the ones kind of anticipating some sort of disruption. And I don’t know if it’s because for a hot minute, was that Zima? Or whatever was really popular. And they were like, oh, no, do they have bad days? Right?

Adam Pierno 35:30
Because everything change? Yeah.

Farrah Bostic 35:34
But you know that that idea of they’re going to be great consumers. And so then seeing them like snot being bad into cereal or not that into these brands or not that into buying in bulk or whatever. That was like the the kind of disappointment the the like, oh honeymoons over kind of moment for a lot of brands of we were expecting them to just need like the right advertising. And then we’d sell, sell, sell, because there’s so many of them. And they’ll have all this money, yes. And instead, right? They don’t like what we do, man like,

Adam Pierno 36:08
that’s part two. Part one is is the the news groups, Time Magazine, famously published that article that I think broke the dam and didn’t they don’t reference Millennials rising, but a lot of the themes are threaded back through that. And at that point, people read time, the news, news organizations helped carry the ball. But the marketing world saw, Oh, there’s a door opening to this new mall that’s got a hunt, they thought 100 million people on it. We better figure out what to do with that, then the HR industry got involved and started started pointing it out, then essentially, anybody who wanted to sell something, to put the word Millennials on it, in any kind of b2b sales, you know, like, you could have whatever widget but the millennial widget was was geared towards their exact preferences. It has a baby on board sticker and comes with avocado toast like, is geared just towards these people. And it’s called Eyes something. Yeah, yes. Yeah, that helped a lot too. And they were looking for the same source texts we were looking for, what is the what is the research? What are the data points we can find? Because it is too big of a group to sample to find the homogeneity that we seek because we want to sell it, not because it’s true.

Farrah Bostic 37:26
Right. And I think you know, we’ll get into this when we when we do an episode about kind of how research works when you’re trying to study demographic by generation. And so I think one of the things I would not at all be surprised to see is brand surveys going out in the wake of millennials rising, that have attitudinal statement batteries that are just directly lifted out of this book that are things like I trust institutions, you know, I have a good relationship with my parents, I am optimistic about my future. You know, I prefer to follow the rules.

Adam Pierno 38:01
In future episodes, we’re going to hit those questions and those approaches in a in a few different directions. Yeah. And yeah, lots lots to dig into with, and, and the way that gets picked up by the authors here, and shaped to the narrative into the hypothesis that they have.

Farrah Bostic 38:20
Yeah, yeah. And so I think, you know, you get these kind of interesting, there’s almost these recurring touch points, it’s kind of recursive, they keep going back to the well, you get that piece in a special issue of Time magazine in 93, the new face of America where there’s like a computer generated face of a mixed race young woman, and this is the thing that’s like, alright, so get used to people who look like this woman, you know, who could be, you know, so Alex Wagner, who’s on MSNBC now wrote a book called Future face, and how this sort of piece in some respects define her upbringing as a mixed race person in America. So you get that and then you get the millennium is nigh and Anna Quindlen writes her piece. It’s a Newsweek literally, New Year’s Eve 1999. And it’s basically The Kids Are All Right, oh, kids today are amazing. And everything’s gonna be great. And then, you know, early 2000 outcomes, millennials rising, and then brands and media and like, they’re all circling around each other. And so, you know, if you’re, if you’re working in media and seeing what the advertising is doing, you start to think they must be doing that because there’s a real thing happening in culture. And so like, it just becomes an echo chamber, between brands and the media to understand this audience because they share the audience right? Like the media is also trying to figure out how do we attract millennial readers and subscribers and viewers? And weird

Adam Pierno 39:44
way? It’s, it’s the beginning of the hype cycle. Oh, that’s Yeah, yeah. And it’s about the people we’re trying to sell the hype cycle to. Yes. And I hate the hype side. I want no more hype. I need more us. Hi. I can’t care about which Kardashian is married to who? I can’t care about any more things that are in the 24 hour news cycle. I need less of it. Yeah,

Farrah Bostic 40:09
I mean, 20 eternity. I know I’ve sorted in Twitter top articles filtering by lat last eight hours. Because I’m like, I’m like, Yeah, I don’t need four links about that thing.

Adam Pierno 40:23
I actually can’t process that much. I just need less, much less. These are

Farrah Bostic 40:27
the kind of bounding things the only other thing I would I would throw in there is don’t forget that at the time this book is coming out. There is a dark side to all of this, which is the worries about the y2k bug. You have millenarian cults. You have people committing mass suicide, you have moral panics about the youth. All of these things are our undercurrents of the of this moment where we’re simultaneously like The Kids Are All Right, and they’re gonna save us. And they’re the next greatest generation and yada yada yada. And of course they are children while we’re making all these prognostications both positively and negatively about them.

Adam Pierno 41:10
Yeah, and then you had pointed out the idea of moral panics as a an 80s 90s trend, we could probably do a whole season on moral panics and maybe we will. But this as a response to that. It the way Millennials rising is written is these are the kids that you don’t have to we don’t have to label music. These kids will always choose the

Farrah Bostic 41:32
worst radio edit. Yeah, exactly.

Adam Pierno 41:35
Yes, they don’t want to hear Do you know they want to hear no,

Farrah Bostic 41:38
they want to hear striper? Yeah.

Adam Pierno 41:40
And let’s be honest, we all do. Yeah.

Farrah Bostic 41:44
I still someone when I was in middle school, gave me a striper, a CD, and I was like, I’ve never heard of this band, and I put it in was like, Oh, I’m gonna take that out. And again,

Adam Pierno 41:54
how many tracks did it take you to figure out what was happening?

Farrah Bostic 41:58
I don’t know. I think it was like, two because I think the first one was not heavy handed. Like the top track. I was not like not coming straight out. Yeah. With Jesus. But then then it was pretty clear.

Adam Pierno 42:09
Yes. It was an orthogonal approach from Jesus on the striper off

Farrah Bostic 42:16
leaden into your DMS here was

Adam Pierno 42:19
hey, by the way, like this track, by the way, yeah, this wafer.

Farrah Bostic 42:25
Yeah, but but you’re right about that. I think that that moral panic backdrop lied more to Gen Xers who were home alone doing drugs, having sex. But here are these sexless, sober, obedient children who have a mom at home? Or a care caregiver?

Adam Pierno 42:42
Yes. And so it was less than the again, you referenced the school uniforms, which was not their choice. The supervision was also not their choice, but they had it. The outcome is extrapolated out to be Oh, than they love to be supervised. Well, they didn’t choose it. It’s just what this is just what it was. And this is how it worked for them.

Farrah Bostic 43:01
Yeah, it’s just the water they swimmin they have no idea that there’s some other way of doing these things. And again, like, it’s so important to always say, Who are we talking about when we describe that lived reality, we’re talking about predominantly white, middle and upper middle class, affluent families, intact families living in suburbs, with access to childcare, good public schools that nevertheless somehow require them to wear uniforms. And, and mom doesn’t work outside the home,

Adam Pierno 43:29
most likely 100%. So in our next episodes, we are going to look at that suburb. A lot of their research in this book is based on the place in which the authors lived, which is McLean, Virginia. We hinted at it in the last episode, but we’re going to do a deep dive looking at McLean, Virginia, and whether that’s the right place to base your entire theory of the generation of global adults and American adults, not sure. And we’re going to go into the idea of millennial trust and all the survey work all the data that was pulled to reference that is sourced in the back of millennials rising so we can understand the frame that they were creating, and whether that holds up if we compare it across generations or across other timespans.

Farrah Bostic 44:22
Yeah, or even to a couple of other relatively contemporaneous surveys that did not seem to come to the same conclusion.

Adam Pierno 44:31
You can pick and choose right? Isn’t that how data works?

Farrah Bostic 44:33
Yes, apparently. And apparently what they chose was gay government. Gay mom and dad, sort of version of the story.

Adam Pierno 44:41
It’s hard to deny. I mean, they had baby on board signs that they must be pro government all the time for the rest of their life.

Farrah Bostic 44:47
I gotta tell you, I saw a baby on board sign the other day. Oh,

Adam Pierno 44:49
they’re back. They’re back. And they’re better than ever. Yeah.

Farrah Bostic 44:52
I feel like it’s part of the great millennial nostalgia movement. Yes. They’re like, Wait a second. There was a baby on board sign in my mom. I’m sorry when I was little, when I need one of those for my kids.

Adam Pierno 45:03
They don’t even have kids. I just want the sign.

Farrah Bostic 45:06
Probably for a baby on board.

Adam Pierno 45:11
Let’s hope we don’t start seeing those pop up, although I’m gonna start an Etsy store right now. Yeah. Get right on it. All right. Well, until next time. All right.

Farrah Bostic 45:21
This has been great. Yeah, it’s really getting to the bottom of this now.

Adam Pierno 45:25
I feel like I feel like we’re starting to understand what the hell’s happening. Yes,

Farrah Bostic 45:28
yes, I think it’s I think it’s really important to talk about what they were specifically looking at. And I’m looking forward to that next time.

Adam Pierno 45:35
Excellent, Sierra. All right.

Eliza T Robot 45:39
On the next episode of In the demo, Farah and Adam go to McLean, Virginia to learn about group zero of the millennial hypothesis on your robot host, Eliza, please be kind in the demo is produced by Farah Bostick, and Adam piano with support from the Difference Engine music by Omega Man under the Creative Commons license. Go to in the demo for behind the scenes research and supporting information

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