The most defining quality of the millennial generation will be its racial diversity, according to an article published on the Brookings Institution website.
The article, written by William Frey, said the millennial generation is far more racially diverse than the baby boomer and Gen eration Xers before it, because of the higher rate of immigration and slowed growth of the white population in recent years. Frey defined millenials as Americans aged between 18 and 34.
Millennials are the key to bridging the gap between the Gen X and the post-millennial generation, Frey said in the article.
“As they move from young adulthood to middle age, millennials will serve as a demographic bridge between older, whiter generations and subsequent, more diverse generations,” Frey said. “Their ability to assimilate, advocate, and become accepted will be key to the successful transition to a more racially diverse nation.”
Néstor P. Rodríguez, professor in the Department of Sociology, said the increased racial diversity of the millennial generation was caused by both higher immigration rates and the fact that immigrants tend to have higher fertility rates.
“In the last two decades we’ve broken immigration records,” Rodríguez said. “The Mexican immigrants [for example] have a higher fertility rate than people in Mexico. It has to do with selectivity of the population that’s coming. [Many] tend to be young… which are usually years for fertility.”
Rodríguez said millennials born in America will grow up and have fewer children because of cultural differences. More women are going to college, leading to delayed marriages and delayed childbirth, Rodriguez said.
“The benefits of having a large number of children … don’t work here. If you were in the countryside doing farming, you needed [your childrens’] help,” Rodríguez said.
A diverse classroom also plays a big part in helping students learn about different cultures, Rodriguez said.
“When you have intergroup exchanges [and] direct face-to-face [interactions], that helps [with learning different cultures],” Rodríguez said.
Aerospace engineering sophomore Lauren Whitsell said a diverse community exposes her to different opinions.
“Being part of a diverse community, especially the one at UT, gives me a broader perspective on the world,” Whitsell said. “I encounter tons of different people in my academic and social life here and I think it allows me to be a more well-rounded person in general. My learning would be really stifled if there wasn’t a diversity of views in the classroom.”