Who are the millennial generation, and what does their rise mean for the future of the country?

Everyone is trying to figure millennials out — what makes them tick, what they care about. Like previous generations, millennials aren’t monolithic. They don’t all agree with each other on society and politics anymore than previous generations did. There are some divisions among millennials that hinge on racial background — white millennials prefer less government, while non-white millennials strongly prefer more. While they are more liberal on average than previous generations, according to Pew Research’s most recent major study, we all tend to be more liberal when we’re young and don’t own anything, and haven’t yet met the iron hand of the taxman. Not all of today’s earnest young liberals will remain so.

A couple of statistics suggest that many millennials will never outgrow their youthful leftism. One stat suggests that they are bequeathing a generation that will be even more in favor of big government than their own generation.

According to Pew:

Millennials lead all generations in the share of out-of-wedlock births. In 2012, 47% of births to women in the Millennial generation were non-marital, compared with 21% among older women. … In 1996, when Gen Xers were about the same age that Millennials were in 2012, just 35% of births to that generation’s mothers were outside of marriage (compared with 15% among older women in 1996).

Millennials are slower to marry than previous generations. They have moved the median marriage age up to 29 for men and 27 for women. They are largely delaying marriage because they are loaded down with massive student debt, and because there are few jobs available to them upon which they can build their lives. The current Democratic administration’s anti-jobs policies are largely to blame for the latter. The lack of accountability in university practices and tuition is largely to blame for the former. Millennials are being squeezed by the Obama economy. Yet they remain more likely to vote for Democrats, if they vote.

I’m not here to slam single parenthood, but single parenthood has proven to be a very strong predictor of one’s economic outcome and one’s politics, meaning, one’s relationship to the government and the policies one tends to vote for. Simply put, single adults tend to vote in a certain way, and children of single adults tend to have poorer economic outcomes, which leads to a certain voting pattern. Marriage is a strong predictor of political behavior.

Currently just 26% of millennials — those between age 18 and 33 — are married. At the same age, 36% of GenX and 48% of the Baby Boomers were married. And 69% of millennials say they want to get married, but the lack of jobs is holding them back.

Children who grow up in single parent homes tend to have higher rates of incarceration, higher rates of drug use, lower academic performance, lower overall income — greater overall dependence on government, in one way or another — than children in two-parent homes. They tend to produce less for the economy and cost more taxpayer dollars.

Nearly half of millennials’ children are being born outside of marriage, and statistics compiled by the National Fatherhood Initiative tell us that most of them will never have a long-term two-parent family. Most will grow up without fathers living permanently in their homes with them. Fatherlessless breeds more obesity, poverty, greater rates of emotional problems, weaker physical health, and then more fatherlessness.

All of that leads to bigger government — more law enforcement to deal with the increase in crime, more prison space, more dependence on social programs.This is the connection between social conservatism and economic conservatism. Stronger two-parent families just tend to need and want less government intervention in their lives.

Family structure matters, a lot. The millennial generation simply isn’t furthering the traditional family structure. This will have a profound impact on the future size, scope and involvement of government in Americans’ lives.

Looking at the millennials’ marriage and birth pattern from a purely political point of view, the fact that nearly half of all millennials’ children are being born outside marriage may be the single most significant statistic on the horizon, more than the rise of the Hispanic vote. In 2012, married men and women heavily favored Republican Mitt Romney over Democrat Barack Obama. Both single men and women voted for the Democrats. The marriage gap has held more or less steady since 1996, according to Gallup, with Republicans always performing better among marrieds than among singles.



How does the conservative-libertarian smaller government message resonate with a generation that is increasingly dependent on government, and which is raising children who are likely to be even more dependent on government?