NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A new study suggests that college students today are more interested in making money than making a difference compared to previous generations.
Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia surveyed undergraduates about how important various life and career goals are to them and compared the findings with previous studies on generational attitudes on this subject. The results, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, don’t exactly make the millennial generation look good.
“Compared to Boomers, Millennials were less likely to have donated to charities, less likely to want a job worthwhile to society or that would help others, and less likely to agree they would eat differently if it meant more food for the starving,” the report concluded. Likewise, the researchers found that this generation cares significantly less about “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” or “finding meaning and purpose” in their life than previous generations have.
The notable exception to this trend is that the millennial generation was more likely to volunteer and do community service than boomers, though as the researchers are quick to point out, this is likely just because more high schools now require a certain amount of community service to graduate.
The study also found that the millennial generation is significantly more likely to say that being rich is important to them than previous generations. According to one report the researchers analyzed, 74.4% of first-year college students surveyed between 2000 and 2009 rated “being very well-off financially” as essential or very important. By comparison, 70.8% of first-year students responded this way between 1979-1999 and only 44.6% of students from the boomer generation said so between 1966-1978.
As the researchers note in the report, some of this may be explained by the realities of the tough economy and the skyrocketing costs of a college education. Even those students with the best intentions may end up shifting their priorities when confronted with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and a tough labor market.