Generation Y (aka the Millennials): Just the facts
Members of Generation Y (as with other generations before them) have been derided and maligned. People love to generalize about ‘ the younger generation’, and do it all the time. And it’s been going on for centuries.
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Anonymous (widely mis-attributed to Socrates)
And one of my personal favorites from Clarence Darrow:
“The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.”
Those older demean those younger (and the youth are not particularly admiring of their elders). Whether we do this in our personal lives or not, is naturally, a personal choice (and just as naturally, has consequences for our relationships). But in the courtroom and in voir dire, it is wiser to make choices based on what we know to be true of human nature rather than what we assume or choose to believe.
Here is (courtesy of the Pew Research Center) what we know now about Generation Y—the newest members of the jury panel.
- The oldest members are approaching 30 (the youngest are approaching adolescence).
- They are more inclined to trust institutions than either Gen X or Baby Boomers when they were coming of age.
- They are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the nation’s history: 18.5% are Hispanic; 14.2% are Black; 4.3% are Asian; 3.2% are of mixed race; and 59.8% are White.
- They are the least religiously observant/practicing cohort since religious behavior was added to survey research.
- They are the most politically progressive of any age group in modern history.
- They see social networking as normal and everyday activities and internet use as routine (e.g., tweeting, texting, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia).
All of these factoids have relevance for voir dire, case presentation and witness preparation. Millennials are often frightening for litigators because they are so ‘unknown’. Yet, many of them are old enough, sufficiently well educated, and assertive enough to be forces in the deliberation room. It is unwise to assume “young people are bad for plaintiffs” just as it is unwise to assume “women are good for plaintiffs” or “women are tough on crime”. It simply all depends.
We will watch as more substantive research emerges on Gen Y/Millennials. Undoubtedly we will write a paper on attitudes and values and litigation advocacy with Gen Y as we did with Generation X (http://www.keenetrial.com/articles/htm). In the meantime, watch yourself. Bias is often a subtle and insidious thing. Seeing this generation as different from those that have gone before (as indeed all generations have been) can help you avoid pigeonholing assumptions.