60-Second Science

Gap Grows between Wanting and Working

Compared with kids who graduated high school the 1970s, Millennial teens are more interested in material signs of success and less concerned with working to get them. Karen Hopkin reports

It’s a common complaint, perhaps leveled by every generation about the ones that follow: kids nowadays are too materialistic, with their inflated sense of entitlement, and now flat screens and cell phones. Well, turns out this gripe might finally be true. Because today’s adolescents seem to want more in the way of worldly goods than did teens 30 years ago, and they don’t really want to work for it.

That’s according to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. [Jean M. Twenge and Tim Kasser, Generational Changes in Materialism and Work Centrality, 1976-2007: Associations With Temporal Changes in Societal Insecurity and Materialistic Role Modeling]

To do the analysis, researchers turned to a survey that’s been given to about 15,000 high-school seniors every year since 1976. Among other questions, the kids were asked to rate the importance of having “lots of money” and the stuff money can buy, like a house, a new car, or a “motor-powered recreational vehicle.”

Compared to the Baby Boomers that graduated in the ‘70s, Millennial teens place more stock in the trappings of success. And they also express less interest in working hard to obtain what they covet.

And can you blame them? In an advertising-heavy consumer economy, why wouldn’t you think that "the good life" involves getting handed the goods?

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription
as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >


Email this Article