The millennial generation (currently age 14-33), also known as generation Y or the echo boomers, has become the subject of a lot of media attention and broad generalizations. So, for our Minnesota Compass Annual Meeting we dug into the data and pulled out some trends related specifically to this age group in Minnesota. We found some interesting surprises we share with you here.

1. Numbering 1.5 million, millennials outnumber boomers

demographics by generation

Millennials are the largest in both numbers and share of Minnesota’s population. Baby boomers (age 50-68) come in next, at 1.3 million (25 percent), followed by generation Xers (age 34-49), who number 1.1 million and make up 21 percent of the population. The digital generation (age 13 and younger) already makes up 14 percent of the state’s population, and the silent and greatest generations (age 69+) together make up the remaining 12 percent of Minnesota’s population.

2. 1 in 4 millennials in Minnesota is a person of color

Every generation in Minnesota is more diverse than the generation that preceded it: Only about 5 percent of the silent/greatest generation is made up of persons of color, compared with 9 percent of baby boomers, 19 percent of generation Xers, and 24 percent of millennials. So far about 29 percent of the digital generation is made up of persons of color, and if that trend lasts another few years, it is likely that nearly one-third Minnesota’s digitals will be people of color, since the birth rate is higher among Minnesota’s populations of color than it is among non-Hispanic whites.

generations by race

Immigration is another measure of diversity. Eight percent of Minnesota’s millennial generation is foreign born, second only to generation X, at 13 percent. We also know that another 8 percent of younger millennials (those age 15-19) are themselves children of immigrants. That means an “immigrant experience” has pretty direct impacts on at least 1 in 6 of Minnesota’s millennials.

3. Millennials continue Minnesota’s tradition for ranking high in educational attainment

With nearly 40 percent of Minnesotans age 25-34 having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, we rank 7th nationally in educational attainment.

bachelor's by age

For the Twin Cities region, we rank 5th compared with the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas. These national comparisons are among the older half of the millennial generation, who have made their way through most of their formal education.

4. The Great Recession was hard on millennials

Poverty rates are markedly higher for millennials today than was the case for young baby boomers back in 1980 and generation Xers in 2000.

Additionally, once you control for inflation, the income of millennials age 16-24 in 2012 is over 20 percent lower than the income of baby boomers in that age group in 1980. Note that this income loss is NOT a broader trend; overall household income is up by 18 percent in Minnesota since 1980, including a 25 percent increase among those age 55-64 today (boomers).

income by age

It is important to note though, that the overall employment rate for Minnesotans age 16-34 has not changed substantially from 1980 although today’s job market is much more inviting for young women (especially those age 25-34) than was the case for the boomers in 1980. But young men today are slightly less likely to be employed than were young boomers and gen Xers, and we see this drop especially among entry-level young men age 16-24.

5. Millennials are not immune from racial gaps, but some progress is being seen

Despite the good marks overall on educational attainment, Minnesota’s millennials aren’t immune from the racial gap that plagues Minnesotans of all ages across employment, home ownership, and even disability rates. Among those age 25-34, for example, while non-Hispanic white Minnesotans are more likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree than are their national counterparts, young adults who are Asian, Black, and American Indian in Minnesota are less likely to have a degree than is the case for the U.S. as a whole.

bachelor's by race

There is some good news in terms of gaps, however. The high school graduation rate among students of color has increased by 19 percentage points, from 43 percent in 2003 to 62 percent in 2013, and the white-of color gap has narrowed from 36 percentage points to 23 points. There is still room a lot of for improvement, but this is a definite move in the right direction.

6. Minnesota’s millennials are carrying on Minnesota’s nation-leading tradition of civic engagement

While young adults are typically among those least likely to involve themselves in volunteering and voting, and Minnesota is no exception to this, Minnesota’s young adults compare very favorably to their same-age peers in other states. Minnesota’s millennials rank sixth in volunteering and second in voter turnout.


Combined with the relatively good news in education, Minnesota’s millennials appear poised to maintain Minnesota’s generally high quality of life – and might even be the generation to figure out how to more effectively open opportunities to extend that relative prosperity for an even broader array of communities here in Minnesota.

Related articles on Compass:

Minnesota now: Millennials, leaders and the information economy by Diane Tran, founder of Minnesota Rising, and Eriks Dunens, University of Minnesota Extension.

Supporting the next generation of STEM stars by Lisa Peterson de la Cueva, Community Empowerment Technology Project (CTEP) AmeriCorps, SPPN

Don’t just scare, inspire by Chris Oien, Minnesota Council on Foundations


Craig Helmstetter is the former manager of the Compass project. Jane Tigan is a former research associate on the Compass project.