John Leo

Clurman says that as a group, boomer parents are spending a lot of time getting close to their millennial children. These are better relationships than the gen X-ers had with boomer parents, or than boomers had with their own mothers and fathers. According to Gallup, more than 90 percent of teens say they are very close to their parents. In 1974, over 40 percent of boomers said they would be better off without their parents. J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich, says the drive toward reconnection with family and community was showing up in the data even before 9/11 and is exceptionally strong today.

Getting real., an online marketing site run by Interbrand, issued a gen Y report last week that echoes Yankelovich. Gen Y is not turning out to be the edgy, cynical, ironic cohort many expected, the report said. In addition to millennials' closeness to their parents, statistics on sexual activity, violence, and suicide rates are down, and concern with religion and community are up. Evidence on drinking and drugs is more mixed, but smoking, drinking, and drug use among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders fell simultaneously in 2002 for the first time. The millennial affection for the authentic over the glitzy marketing product is marked by the rise of Avril Lavigne, "an ordinary looking, midriff-free, nondancing singer hailed as the anti-Britney," reports Yankelovich makes the same point about Lavigne. Smith says the millennials will watch over-the-top cultural products like reality TV and the movie Kill Bill, but they stand apart from them and look around for more genuine, less exploitative material.

Millennials are apt to trust parents, teachers, and police. Apparently they are likely to trust presidents, too. A Harvard poll released last week reported that President Bush has a 61 percent favorability rate among American college students. This may not mean much. The millennials are not a very politically active generation. But they are clearly able to resist programming by their professors, 90 percent of whom seem convinced that Bush is either Hitler or a moron. The millennials are a very interesting generation. Now if they could just walk one block without carrying a bottle of water and making four phone calls . . . .

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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