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Blog » Business Tips » Here’s What Science Actually Says About Millennials’ Work Ethic

Here’s What Science Actually Says About Millennials’ Work Ethic

Updated on January 17th, 2022

Since the oldest millennials were only 16, articles deriding the fragility, self-centeredness, incompetence and poor work ethic of Generation Y have abounded. Many use anecdotal evidence to make sweeping but unsubstantiated generalizations.

Some of these claims are (unfortunately) verified. Cross-generational studies repeatedly show that millennials are more assertive, confident, expectant and narcissistic than any other generation.

But lazy?

Not according to actual science:

  1. According to Citigroup and Seventeen Magazine, almost 80 percent of students take at least a part-time job during the school year. This is a higher rate than ever before.
  2. The Wharton School of Business surveyed its students in 1992 and in 2012. The 1992 grads estimated they’d be working an average of 58 hours a week after graduation. In 2012, they guessed an average of 72 hours. For the grads in 1992, 78% of the class planned to have children, compared to only 42% in 2012. What’s interesting is the percentage of students who wanted children was the same. The study’s author, Stewart Friedman, explains that today’s students couldn’t reconcile the hours they anticipated working with building a family.
  3. According to Bentley University, more than half of millennials are willing to work long hours and weekends to achieve career success.
  4. A survey by Ernst & Young’s Global Generation Research found that 47% of millennials in management positions have begun working more hours in the last five years, compared with only 38% of Generation X and 28% of Baby Boomers.

Hundreds of studies had the potential to bring Gen Y’s work ethic down, but none could.

My takeaway? This generation’s working like we have something to prove

Caroline Beaton

Caroline Beaton

Caroline Beaton writes on the psychology of millennials at work. With equal parts statistics and story, she helps twenty-somethings stop wasting time, figure out their purpose and create a livelihood around the life they want. She writes for Forbes, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and her blog, The Gen Y Mind, where she covers early career crafting, self-development and young entrepreneurship. She also provides high-end consulting and content marketing services for brands seeking to connect with millennials.

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