How Millennials Perceive a New Generation Gap

Millennials respect their elders, so why do they say the generation gap is wider than ever?

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Illustration by Gerard Dubois for TIME

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But they are also unconventionally conventional. They are, for example, the least officially religious of any modern generation, and fully 1 in 4 has no religious affiliation at all. On the other hand, they are just as spiritual, just as likely to believe in miracles and hell and angels as earlier generations were. They pray about as much as their elders did when they were young--all of which suggests that they have not lost faith in God, only in the institutions that claim to speak for him.

The greatest divide of all has to do with hope and heart. In any age, young folk tend to be more cheerful than old folk, but the hope gap has never been greater than it is now. Despite two wars and a nasty recession that has hit young people hardest, the Pew survey found that 41% of millennials are satisfied with how things are going, compared with 26% of older people. Less than a third of those with jobs earn enough to lead the kind of life they want--but 88% are confident that they will one day.

"Youth is easily deceived," Aristotle said, "because it is quick to hope." But I'd rather think that the millennials know something we don't about the inventions that will emerge from their networked brains, the solutions that might arise from a generation so determined to bridge gaps and work as a team. In that event, their vision would be vindicated, not only for themselves but for those of us who will one day follow their lead.

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