Generation Research

Three Things That Changed About Millennials This Year, and One That Didn’t


(Corrects third paragraph and chart to reflect that the data describe the amount of time spent offline.)

Millennials are not lazy. Or they are lazy, stupid, and screwed. But that’s just what we learn by typing “millennials are” into Google (GOOG). What do studies say? Almost the same thing.

A new survey from Vital Source, a company that makes electronic textbooks, suggests that young people spend less time online, can stomach student debt if it leads to a job, and don’t expect to pay off their loans soon. The study polled 500 current college students. Here are the most interesting results, in four charts:

1. Young people spend five more minutes than they did last year resisting the temptation to post every photo from their cat’s first trip to the vet. Then again, students said they spent only an hour offline per day, so they could just be lying.

2. The screens keep getting smaller. Even the world’s smallest computer isn’t cute enough for the youth. Six times as many students used tablets this year as in 2011, and smartphone usage almost doubled. Fewer young people are using laptops.

3. Young people don’t want to spend paper on paper-writing. A majority—58 percent—of students said they declined to attend a college based on its price tag, up from 49 percent in 2013. Their concern might have something to do with the increasing amount of cash it takes to participate in a seminar on the philosophy of the soul. The amount students pay for college, after accounting for scholarships, has increased more than 60 percent for students attending a public college in their state in the last two decades, and 10 percent at private schools, according to the College Board.

4. Millennials are still OK with having debt for decades. They’d just like a job, please. Almost half of the students surveyed said they wouldn’t be able to pay off their loans until their 50th birthday. But when asked whether they’d prefer having no debt at all or a full-time job, the vast majority opted for the daily grind. Almost 8 in 10 students said they would take a salaried future over a debt-free one. That percentage has stayed constant year-over-year, suggesting that the ongoing national conversation over the problem of student debt may not be changing how the smartphone generation weighs the value of education.

Kitroeff is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York, covering business education.

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