Millennials Just Want to Be Rich, Study Finds

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A new study suggests that college students today are more interested in making money than making a difference compared to previous generations.

Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia surveyed undergraduates about how important various life and career goals are to them and compared the findings with previous studies on generational attitudes on this subject. The results, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, don’t exactly make the millennial generation look good.

“Compared to Boomers, Millennials were less likely to have donated to charities, less likely to want a job worthwhile to society or that would help others, and less likely to agree they would eat differently if it meant more food for the starving,” the report concluded. Likewise, the researchers found that this generation cares significantly less about “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” or “finding meaning and purpose” in their life than previous generations have.

The notable exception to this trend is that the millennial generation was more likely to volunteer and do community service than boomers, though as the researchers are quick to point out, this is likely just because more high schools now require a certain amount of community service to graduate.

The study also found that the millennial generation is significantly more likely to say that being rich is important to them than previous generations. According to one report the researchers analyzed, 74.4% of first-year college students surveyed between 2000 and 2009 rated “being very well-off financially” as essential or very important. By comparison, 70.8% of first-year students responded this way between 1979-1999 and only 44.6% of students from the boomer generation said so between 1966-1978.

As the researchers note in the report, some of this may be explained by the realities of the tough economy and the skyrocketing costs of a college education. Even those students with the best intentions may end up shifting their priorities when confronted with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and a tough labor market.

(Hat tip to Good Magazine for pointing out this study.)

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  • Amandagreathouse

    Maybe it’s just because I was raised right, but I’m a millenial, and I had to drag my mother with me to help me volunteer at the  Waterfront Rescue Mission’s Thanksgiving for the homeless around Pensacola, Florida. And any time my husband or I (high school sweethearts, together 9 years) have any money to our name, a portion of it ALWAYS goes to help someone. Yes, I am less likely to give my money to the Red Cross. I am more likely to give it to the war veteran with the cardboard sign, because I know he will have something for dinner that night. Yes, being wealthy is important to me. Not because I want the money, but because if I had a greater pool of resources, I could help more people with it. Yes, I want to be a doctor, and yes, it’s partially for the money, and no, it’s not for love of the profession itself. It is because I’m envisioning a practice of my own one day, where I can help treat the uninsured or underinsured for free during half the day and take paying clients during the other half to keep the practice afloat. It is easy to take a look at simple numbers and speculate as to the reasons behind them though. I don’t fault you for that.