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千禧一代并不如“雪花一样脆弱”

更新时间:2017-10-25 13:51:02 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

What everyone gets wrong about 'millennial snowflakes'
千禧一代并不如“雪花一样脆弱”

I know the ultimate millennial. She owns a bicycle in lieu of a car, goes to yoga class at least twice a week, grows her own bean sprouts and works side-gigs instead of for a full-time employer – she left a budding career as an economist to pursue her dream of being a comedian.

我认识一个超级千禧一代。她用自行车来代替汽车,她每周至少上两次瑜伽课,她还会自己发豆芽,她没有全职工作,只是四处打打零工——她放弃了经济学家这份刚刚崭露头角的职业,梦想着成为一名喜剧演员。

The problem is, she's not a millennial. She’s a baby boomer in her late 50s.

问题是,她其实不是千禧一代,而是婴儿潮一代,现在已经快60岁了。

It’s true that each generation is shaped by demographics, historic events and economic forces. Like, of course, the Great Recession: worldwide, young adults now earn up to 20% below their average compatriot; 30 years ago, they earned more. Or education trends: in the US, Gen Y is more likely to have gone to university – but, as the cost of education has skyrocketed, also to be in massive student debt.

没错,每一代人都会因为人口状况、历史事件和经济环境被赋予不同的特质。例如大萧条:从全球范围来看,现在年轻成年人的收入最多比其他年龄段人口少20%;而在30年前,年轻成年人的收入反而高于平均水平。再比如教育趋势:在美国,Y世代上大学的比例更高——但随着大学教育费用飙升,他们的学生贷款债务也大幅增加。

But when it comes to millennials, these analyses often go haywire. Before we know it, we’re not talking about how certain trends are squeezing all of society – and some groups in different ways than others. We’re talking about how millennials are lazy, entitled and really just need to work harder. (Even though, confusingly, they’re also workaholics).

不过,针对千禧一代的分析往往杂乱无章。转眼之间,我们已经不再探讨某些趋势对整个社会的挤压作用——以及对某些群体与其他群体之间的差异,而是讨论千禧一代是如何懒惰,如何没有教养,认为他们需要更加努力地工作。(但令人困惑的是,他们其实也是工作狂)。

Millennials – defined as those born between 1980 and either the mid- to late 1990s – are the generation that’s fun to hate. And whether it’s a silly trend piece about doorbells or a “generation snowflake” take-down that’s a bit more vicious, there’s often a pattern to the articles written about them.

千禧一代指的是1980年到20世纪90年代中后期出生的人,他们经常成为人们憎恨的对象。无论是关于千禧一代不愿使用门铃的愚蠢分析,还是更加充满鄙视意味的"雪花一代"的剖析文章,往往都会遵循一套既定模式。

Step one: take bad data (or no data at all). Forget that what data you can find usually looks at today’s younger cohort in isolation, rather than comparing them to older generations when they were the same age. Step two: ignore – or play down – external factors and demographic changes that may have influenced any differences found. Step three: layer on stereotypes. Step four: wring hands.

第一步:列举一些不良数据(或者根本不用数据)。但他们却忘记了一件事情:你所找到的数据通常只是孤立地看待当今的年轻人,而没有把他们与前几代人年轻的时候进行对比。第二步:忽视或弱化可能对你发现的任何差异产生影响的外部因素和人口变化。第三步:掺杂成见。第四步:刻意扭曲。

For example, are millennials really buying houseplants more than older generations? Even if so, are they really buying more than their grandparents did when they were young and setting up their own households? And if urbanisation is a factor, which the article nods to, could it be because people have fewer outdoor gardens in cities, so plants need to come indoors? Or is it really that millennials living in cities feel rootless, have voids in their hearts and “need something to nurture”?

例如,千禧一代真的比上几辈人更爱买盆栽植物吗?即便如此,他们买的真的比他们的祖父年轻时候还多吗?如果真像那篇文章所说,城市化是造成这种现象的原因之一,那会不会是因为城市里的户外花园减少,所以只能把植物种到室内?还是因为住在城市里的千禧一代真的感觉无所寄托,内心空虚,"需要种点东西"?

The trend stories are one thing. (And we’ve all fallen prey to them). But they’re the most harmless thread of a blanket of criticism and concern about Generation Y that extends from the US to Australia to even millennials themselves. According to the theory, people born between 1980 and 1995 may be smart (except when they’re stupid) and digital-minded (except when they’re not). But they’re also killing every industry from diamonds to napkins, wrecking religion and university campuses, ruining the economy in Japan, destroying America. That’s not to mention how much they’re annoying… everyone.

关于社会趋势的报道确实影响恶劣。(我们其实都深受其害)。但在各种各样关于Y世代和千禧一代的批评和担忧之中,这其实是最无害的一种。从美国到澳大利亚,这些内容随处可见。1980年到1995年之间出生的人可能很聪明(除了他们愚蠢的时候),而且秉承数字时代的思维方式(除了他们不这样思考的时候)。但有更多的理论认为,千禧一代也在扼杀从钻石到餐巾纸在内的每个行业,摧毁宗教和大学校园,毁灭日本经济,破坏美国。更不用说他们给所有人带来的烦恼了。

Result: we think we know a lot about millennials, and about how different they are from any other generation, ever. And those things we think we know about them are so terrible, we hate them for it.

结果:我们自以为自己很了解千禧一代,了解他们与前几代人的区别。我们凭借这些自以为是的了解认定他们糟糕透顶,并因此对他们憎恨有加。

The problem is a lot of that knowledge is a little off.

问题在于,我们所了解的很多事情都很片面。

Tired stereotypes

老掉牙的成见

Many of the stereotypes, and studies, come out of the US, where millennials now make up the largest living generation. (In Europe, on the other hand, they are a minority of all adults). Even within the US, the image of a typical millennial is taken from a narrow slice of the population: think of how Lena Dunham’s show Girls was held up as a send-up of general Generation Y tendencies – despite its narrow portrait of privileged, aimless and almost all white Brooklyn transplants.

很多成见和研究都来自美国,美国千禧一代在人口中所占的比例最高。(另一方面,欧洲的千禧一代只是成年人中的少数群体)。即便是在美国,人们对千禧一代的典型印象也只能片面反映这个群体:想想莉娜·杜汉姆(Lena Dunham)出演的美剧《衰姐们》(Girls)是如何对Y世代的各种倾向展开嘲讽的吧——尽管它的主人公只是那些享受特权、漫无目标的布鲁克林移民,而且几乎都是白人。

But even within the US, where huge research firms like Pew and Gallup often indulge intergenerational fascinations, there’s more to the data than it seems at first glance. Take living arrangements. In the US in 2014, for the first time in 130 years, it became more common for those aged 18-34 to live with their parents than with a spouse or romantic partner. Jobless, lazy, entitled – the statistics fit the stereotype.

虽然皮尤和盖洛普这样的美国大型研究公司往往热衷于研究代际差异,但即便是在这样的国家,数据所蕴含的意义也不像表面看起来那么简单。以生活安排为例。美国2014年的数据表明,在18至34岁的人群中,跟父母同住比跟配偶或爱人同居更加普遍,这是130年来第一次出现这种状况。失业、懒惰、没教养——统计数据完全符合这些成见。

But as the data shows, US millennials aren’t actually living with their parents in record numbers. Interestingly, that peak happened in 1940. (Those young people would have been members of what Americans now call the Greatest Generation). And while the economy is a factor, three out of four of those who live with their parents today aren’t “idle”: they have jobs or are in higher education.

但数据表明,跟父母一起居住的美国千禧一代人数并没有创纪录。有趣的是,最高峰发生在1940年。(当年的那些年轻人如今在美国被称作"最伟大的一代")。虽然经济因素是原因之一,但跟父母同住的人有四分之三都不是"无所事事":他们都有自己的工作,或者正在进行深造。

The real change? Millennials are marrying later than their parents or grandparents – a trend which has been rising in the US since 1970, and which is shared by nearly every OECD partner state from Iceland to Korea. But it isn’t just marriage. While they are cohabiting more, millennials still are less likely to live with a romantic partner, married or unmarried, than were previous generations.

真正的变化是什么?其实是因为千禧一代结婚的年龄比父辈和祖辈更晚——这一趋势从1970年就开始在美国抬头,而且从冰岛到韩国,几乎所有经合组织(OECD)成员国也都存在这种现象。但问题不仅仅源自婚姻。虽然同居的现象越发普遍,但无论结婚与否,千禧一代跟爱人住在一起的比例还是低于前几代人。

And although it’s tempting to infer an interpretation about commitment levels in that data (or to write a headline like, “Young Americans are killing marriage”), let’s not forget in the US it is baby boomers who not only have higher current rates of divorce than any other age group right now, but who also got divorced in unprecedented numbers when they were in their 20s and 30s.

虽然很容易通过这组数据得出一番关于婚姻承诺的解释(或者写出类似于《美国年轻人正在扼杀婚姻》这样的标题),但别忘了,婴儿潮一代才是当今美国离婚率最高的人群,他们在二、三十岁的时候离婚的数量也曾经创造了空前的记录。

Remaining single isn’t the only demographic shift that’s changing how people live in the US. Another is the rising Asian and Hispanic population, which is more likely to live in multigenerational households. In fact, “Adjusted for demographic shifts, the share of young adults living in their parents’ home was actually lower in 2015 than in the pre-bubble years of the late 1990s. In other words, young people today are less likely to live with their parents than young people with the same demographics 20 years ago were,” writes economist Jed Kolko.

单身率增加并非唯一影响美国人生活方式的人口变化因素。另外一项因素则是亚裔和拉丁裔人口的增加,他们更喜欢几世同堂。事实上,"根据人口变化进行调节后,2015年跟父母同住的年轻成年人比例反而比20世纪90年代泡沫破裂前有所降低。换句话说,与20年前具备相同的人口统计学特征的年轻人相比,当今的年轻人跟父母同住的比例反而更低。"经济学家杰德·柯尔克(Jed Kolko)写道。

The youth of today

当今的年轻人

Maybe many of the characteristics we like ascribing to millennials aren’t unique to this generation. Maybe they’re specific to young people of any generation. If only there was some way to see what older people had written about young people throughout the years.

我们贴给年轻人的很多标签或许并非这代人独有,而是每一代年轻人共同的特征。如果能通过某种方式了解历代年长人士对同时代的年轻人作何评价该有多好。

Fortunately, of course, there is. As the Atlantic put it a couple of years ago, “Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation”. It’s such a favourite trope, we’re even running out of different permutations of generation nicknames. The baby boomers were “the ‘me’ generation”. Millennials? “Generation Me”.

幸运的是,的确可以找到这样的渠道。《大西洋月刊》(The Atlantic)几年前的一个文章标题就很说明问题:《每一代人都曾经是"自我的一代"》(Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation)。这种比喻方式极受媒体欢迎,甚至不惜把两个单词来回颠倒地表达相同的意思:婴儿潮一代被称作"'me'generation",千禧一代则变成了"Generation Me"。

But The Atlantic story barely scratches the surface. Unsurprisingly, older people have been criticising younger people for all of recorded history. More surprising – at least to me – was that many of these decades-old concerns exactly match the same raised today.

但《大西洋月刊》的文章其实并不深刻。所有历史记录都显示,老一辈人始终在批评年轻人,这其实并不出人意料。但令人意外的是——起码令我感到意外的是——几十年前的很多担忧竟然与现在完全一样。

“These were the special children of perfect parents, and they’ve had very little practice in dealing with failure or rejection,” US author Susan Littwin told the Toronto Star. “But fate has taken these bright charming middle-class aristocrats and dumped them into a rude, tight-fisted world. They tried independence, it didn’t work, and that sapped their confidence and sent them home crying.”

"这是一帮完美的父母养育的特殊孩子,他们在面对失败或拒绝时没有多少应对经验。"美国作家苏珊·利特温(Susan Littwin)对《多伦多星报》( Toronto Star)说,"但命运把这些出身高贵的中产阶级贵族推入了粗鲁而吝啬的世界。他们尝试过独立,但没有成功,这削弱了他们的信心,只能回家哭泣。"

Sounds just like millennial snowflakes, alright… except that she was speaking in 1989 and the generation she was describing was Gen X (or, as the headline calls them, “The no-name generation group born in the 60s”).

是不是听起来很像雪花一样脆弱的千禧一代,好吧……但她说这话的时候其实是1989年,而她描述的对象则是X世代(也可以按照当时的文章标题来称呼他们:"60年代出生的无名一代"。)

There were so many examples like this, we’ve compiled a list of just a few here.

类似的例子不胜枚举,这里只是小举几例。

The trend goes all the way back to the ancient world. Romans in their 20s and 30s were often written about negatively – and older Romans were the ones usually doing the writing, suggest the authors of Youth in the Roman Empire. But it went beyond criticism. “There was a great reluctance to entrust honourable offices and liturgies to young people – even greater than to do so to women, who were strictly forbidden by law to hold any office whatsoever but who nonetheless quite often served”, the historians write.

这种趋势其实可以追溯到古代。《罗马帝国的年轻人》(Youth in the Roman Empire)的作者表示,罗马人二、三十岁的时候也经常遭到负面评价——这些内容都来自较为年长的罗马人。但并不仅限于批评。"他们很不愿意把尊贵的公职和礼拜仪式交给年轻人——甚至比交给女人还不情愿。虽然当时的法律严格禁止给女人赋予正式公职,但实际上,她们还是经常能获得公职委任。"这些历史学家写道。

Family planning

家庭规划

So, what about these much-maligned millennials? (Of which I am, of course, one. After all, I’m clearly oversensitive, and I do like a houseplant!). Are any of their characteristics really generation-related, not age-induced?

备受非议的千禧一代究竟怎么样呢?(我当然也是其中的一员。毕竟,我也很敏感,而且也喜欢室内盆栽!)他们的特点中有没有跟年龄无关的时代烙印?

One way to tell is to find out whether these characteristics remain the same as millennials age. Now that the older end of Generation Y is setting up camp in their mid-30s, millennials are… acting a lot like previous generations did.

想要找到答案,就应该观察一个现象:随着千禧一代的年龄增长,这些特点是否依然存在。现在,年龄较大的Y一代已经35岁左右了,他们的所作所为跟前几代人非常相似。

It's true they’re having families later than in the past – a trend that in many countries has been going on for decades (in the US, for example, since 1976). Though US millennials are still less likely to own a home than previous generations at the same age (partly due to both the rising cost of homes and tougher lending standards), they became the largest single group of homebuyers this year. They’re also moving to the suburbs. They’re buying cars. And they’re saving more money for retirement than their Gen X or baby boomer counterparts – even though they have less money to play with.

他们组建家庭的时间的确比前几代人晚一些——这种趋势在很多国家都持续了好几十年(例如,美国从1976年就开始出现这种现象)。尽管美国的千禧一代拥有住房的比例低于处在同一年龄段的前几代人(部分原因在于房价上涨和贷款标准提高),但他们却是今年最大的买房群体。他们也纷纷搬到郊区,也在购买汽车,他们存的养老钱甚至比X一代或婴儿潮一代还多——尽管他们手头的钱没有前几代人那么多。

If you’re wondering how those kombucha-swigging, selfie-obsessed millennials could have suddenly turned into responsible matriarchs and patriarchs, remember: people don’t just change as we get older. We change so much that, according to one recent long-term study, there is very little correlation at all between 77-year-olds and their teenaged selves.

如果你想知道这些爱喝红菌茶、热衷自拍的千禧一代如何突然之间变成有责任心的男女族长,那千万不要忘记一件事情:随着年龄的增长,我们的变化之大不容小觑。最近的一项长期研究显示,由于我们的变化极大,导致77岁的人与他们十几岁的时候几乎判若两人。

Bad data

不良数据

But sometimes, of course, it’s not that millennials are maturing. It’s that the evidence wasn’t so solid to begin with. After all, if you want to focus on millennial trends, you need to get them from studies that compare millennials to other generations – best of all, to other generations when they were the same age.

当然,有的时候不是千禧一代逐渐成熟,而是没有太切实的证据来入手。毕竟,如果你想关注千禧一代的趋势,就需要找到一些研究报告,然后把千禧一代与其他几代人进行对比——最好是能跟其他几代人处在同一年龄段时的状态进行对比。

Here are some of what those types of studies have unearthed:

以下是这些类型的研究发现的一些结论:

Those spoiled youngsters are actually… not well-off. In the UK, millennials earned £8,000 less in their 20s than did Gen X. In Australia, households aged between 65 and 74 years old are $200,000 wealthier than their counterparts eight years ago, while households for those aged 25 to 34 actually went backwards in terms of real wealth.

这些被宠坏的年轻人其实……并不富裕。在英国,千禧一代20多岁时的收入比X一代少8,000英镑。在澳大利亚,65到74岁的家庭比8年前的这一群体的财富高出20万美元,而25至34岁家庭的真实财富反而有所退步。

In the US, both Generation X and Y both have amassed less wealth than their parents at the same age and are more likely to be under the poverty line in the US than previous generations.

在美国,X一代和Y一代积累的财富都比不上相同年龄段的父辈,而且比前几代人更有可能低于美国的贫困线。

All three countries fear that millennials will be the first generation to be worse off than their parents – and they aren’t the only ones.

这三个国家都害怕千禧一代会成为第一代不如自己父辈的人——虽然他们并非唯一一代。

Despite the gig economy (and recession), as we’ve written about before, millennials are actually job-hopping less than their elders – and less than their elders did at the same age. In the UK, workers born in the mid-1980s changed jobs at less than half the rate of those born in the mid-70s at the same age. In the US, millennials are no more likely to job-hop than Gen X did at the same age; if anything, they stay with their employers longer.

正如前文所说,尽管出现了零工经济(和经济衰退),但千禧一代跳槽的频率反而低于上几代人——也低于上几代人年轻的时候。在英国,20世纪80年代中期出生的劳动者换工作的速度还不及70年代中期出生的人处在相同年纪时的一半。美国的千禧一代不比同年龄段的X一代跳槽率高;如果非说二者有什么差别,那么千禧一代为雇主服务的时间反而更长。

When they do change their jobs, an international survey found they do so for the same pragmatic reasons – like making more money or having more responsibility – as Gen Xers and baby boomers. Only one in five millennials (21%) said they’d leave to follow their passion, more than baby boomers (16%) but less than Gen Xers (24%).

一项国际调查发现,等到他们真的换工作时,也是出于跟X一代和婴儿潮一代同样务实的理由——例如想多赚点钱或多肩负一些责任。只有五分之一的千禧一代(21%)表示他们会为了追求刺激而离职,高于婴儿潮一代(16%),但低于X一代(24%)。

US millennials are less likely to take their allotted leave days than their elders (even though, being more junior, they get the least time off).

与老一代相比,美国千禧一代用光假期配额的比例较低(尽管作为级别较低的职场人士,他们的假期最少)。

In the US, Gen Y are even more satisfied with aspects of the workplace – like their training and skills development, or opportunities for promotion – than other generations.

在美国,Y一代对职场的满意度高于其他几代人——例如培训和技能发展,或者晋升机会。

Around the world, millennials are more likely to take a manager’s direction: one study of 25,000 people across 22 countries found that 30% of baby boomers and 30% of Gen Xers agreed that “employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can’t see the reason for it,” compared to 41% of millennials.

在世界各地,千禧一代都更有可能遵守管理者的指示:对22个国家的2.5万人进行的研究发现,30%的婴儿潮一代和30%的X一代都认同一个说法:"即便不了解背后的原因,员工也应该遵守管理者的命令。"千禧一代的比例则达到41%。

As for needing pats on the back, less than one-third of millennials in IBM’s global survey put “recognises my accomplishments” as one of the top three attributes they prefer in a boss. That slightly edged Gen X (26%) and baby boomers (23%). But baby boomers were as likely as millennials to want hands-on guidance and feedback, and they were more likely than millennials to want a manager who asks for their input.

谈到领导的鼓励,IBM的一份全球调查显示,不到三分之一的千禧一代把"认可我的成就"作为他们喜欢的老板的三大特质之一。略高于X一代(26%)和婴儿潮一代(23%)。但婴儿潮一代与千禧一代一样渴望亲身指导和反馈,而且比千禧一代更渴望管理者向他们寻求建议。

Meanwhile, an analysis of more than 20 studies on the topic worldwide has found that "meaningful differences probably do not exist" in the workplace.

与此同时,对20多项与该主题有关的研究进行的分析发现,职场中"可能并不存在真正的差异"。

That being said, are there ways in which millennials are different than other generations? Of course. This infographic of generations in the US suggests each generation has been becoming more metropolitan, better educated and more ethnically diverse, and less likely to be married or to have served in the military, than the last. Other notable findings have been that millennials are having less sex than did their elders at their age; around the world, they have a more global outlook; they’re less likely to participate in organised religion and more likely to live with their partner. But even some of these trends aren’t unique to millennials. Take cohabitation: the number of cohabiting adults over 50 in the US has risen 75% in the last decade.

话虽如此,千禧一代究竟有没有跟其他几代人不同的地方呢?当然有。这张美国各代人的信息图显示,城市化率、教育水平和人种多样性都在逐代提高,而结婚率和参军率则逐代减少。其他值得注意的发现是,千禧一代的性生活少于同年龄段的上几代人;世界各地的千禧一代都拥有更加国际化的视野;他们较少参与有组织的宗教活动,但更有可能跟配偶同居。但就连这些趋势也并非千禧一代独有。以同居为例:50岁以上的美国成年人同居的人数在过去10年增长75%。

So basically, millennials are the same as other generations were at their age. Only a little different. More global, maybe. More diverse. More progressive. Definitely poorer. But a unique group of monsters, the entitled wrath of which the world has ever seen before? I’m not so sure. But I’ll get back to you after I’ve taken a few more selfies.

所以,从根本上讲,千禧一代与同年龄段的其他几代人基本相同,只是略有差异。他们或许更加国际化,更加多元化,更有上进心,当然也更穷。但他们真的是一群前所未有的捣蛋鬼吗?我不太确定。等我多自拍几张照片之后再来告诉你答案。

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