Episode 17: Are Millennials Really So Selfish?
Fresh Research podcast
Millennials often get blamed for killing entire industries, from cars and diamonds to malls, fast casual restaurants and cable television. Apparently, they spend so much on avocado toast that they can’t afford a mortgage (or that could be the result of their crushing college debt and coming of age in the Great Recession). But Millennials also have a heart, often looking to do good whether working for a nonprofit or a for-profit.

Two researchers at Princeton University took a closer look at charitable donations to analyze how the philanthropic behavior of Millennials compares to earlier generations. “Are Millennials Really So Selfish? Preliminary evidence from the Philanthropy Panel Study” was published by Harvey Rosen, The John L. Weinberg Professor of Economics and Business Policy Emeritus at Princeton University, and recent Princeton graduate Peter Koczanski.

Harvey Rosen

The pair found that Millennials appear to be “substantially less likely” to make a charitable gift than previous generations. However, when controlling for differences in their ages, incomes, wealth and other factors, when Millennials do make a donation gift, they’re likely to donate more than previous generations — as some 15 percent more. Rosen and Koczanski join this month’s Fresh Research podcast episode to discuss how they came up with the research idea, what might be behind Millennial giving, as well as religious and secular giving among among Millennials.

“It could be…that the transition to adulthood is coming later in the life cycle for recent generations. Alternatively, generational theory focuses our attention on differences in formative experiences across generations. Millennials came of age during the Great Recession, which could have affected their attitudes toward philanthropy,” they write in the paper.

Peter Koczanski

Millennials are considered those born from about 1980 to 1996, coming after Generation X (1965-1980) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), who are entering their prime giving years. The oldest Millennials are approaching 40 years old, starting their families and perhaps beginning their philanthropic careers in earnest. The youngest of this generation are in their mid-20s, perhaps recent college graduates and likely not thinking as much about charitable giving but building the foundation of their career.