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The Face Of The Millennial Man, Sketched In Data


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. We've been hearing from men about what they think it means to be a man and what their lives are like.


JOE EHRMANN: I recognize that I was a socialized male that had separated my heart from my head, trying to live life from the neck up.

ASHANTI BRANCH: I told one young man the other day; you walk around with a tool box full of hammers. You hammer everything. All you needed was a little screwdriver.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What the hell does it mean to be a man? I think it's a responsibility that we really don't understand.

CORNISH: Our series on men has touched on the lives of boys and teenagers. But now we're moving into a new phase - young adulthood. And we start our next conversation with this statistic.

MICHAEL KIMMEL: Millennial males are significantly more likely than millennial females to live at home. We are talking about 40 percent compared to 32 percent.

CORNISH: That's sociologist Michael Kimmel, professor at Stony Brook University and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, joining us again to talk about the state of the American man. This time we're talking about millennial men. Michael, welcome back.

KIMMEL: Nice to be here, Audie.

CORNISH: So this idea of the millennial man - what is the age range that we're talking about here?

KIMMEL: Well, there's some disagreement among different, you know, measures. Eighteen to thirty-one is the generally agreed on age of what are commonly called millennials.

CORNISH: And this is the period when people are emerging into adulthood, right? When you're going to hit a couple of milestones whether that's finishing your education, starting work, maybe that's getting married or becoming a parent. What's going on with this generation in terms of those milestones?

KIMMEL: Well, historically demographers have always measured a set of milestones - they were the big five. You finish your education, you move out of your parents' house, you get married, you get a job, you get a kid. You became an adult. And in 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had completed all of them by the time that they were 30. In 2000, that number had dropped to 46 percent of women and 31 percent of men. Now this has dropped so precipitously that demographers don't even track these five demographic markers as a set any longer because so few people have actually completed all five of them by the time they reached their 30th birthday.

CORNISH: So what accounts for this change? I mean, certainly people look at this economy, right? It can make some assumptions. But what are some other factors at play?

KIMMEL: Forty-five percent of 25-year-olds have student loans that they're carrying. That's after they're graduated. And the average amount is close to $30,000. So that's a lot of money. They're also the most it over-parented generation in history. They've had their parents micromanaging every nanosecond of their life. Also, I have to say, their parents have been more prosperous than any generation before so the kids have a place to come back to.

CORNISH: When you look at these young men, is this a status that is temporary? What is the long-term effects of them delaying these milestones?

KIMMEL: Well, there's two ways to think about this. Of course it's temporary. Most of them don't expect to be living with their parents forever. The question is what's the content of that temporary quality? For women who move back home after college, who delay marriage or entering the workforce, they tend to still have a vision of where they want to be at a certain age. They want to be married by 26 or 27. They want to have their first kid when they're 28, whereas the men tend to view this temporary state at a kind of drift. They don't really have a plan. When I talk to my students, for example, tell me what your life's going to look like in ten years. They say oh, well, I guess I'll be married and have a job. But they don't really have a vision of how they're going to get from one stage to the next. And that can be worrisome, too. I mean, especially worrisome to their parents.

CORNISH: And finally, Michael, I want to talk about social attitudes. You've talked about millennial men having much more sort of egalitarian point of view than previous generations. How does that play out?

KIMMEL: Well, millennial men today expect to have wives who are working outside the home and are just as committed to their careers. They expect to be much more involved fathers than, say, their grandfathers were. The other thing that has really been quite a dramatic change is their attitudes around homosexuality. Young men -millennial men today are far more accepting of homosexuality than any generation in our history. Men's rates of homophobia now are as low as women's rate. So that's a kind of interesting move. And it gives you an idea that men in America are becoming far more egalitarian in their attitudes towards women, toward LGBT people and also in their own ideology of masculinity. It's interesting to a sociologist like myself because, historically, their behaviors had long changed. They were, in fact, doing more housework and childcare. They were, in fact, more egalitarian in the workplace. But their attitudes didn't show it. Now their attitudes are beginning to change as well in concert with the kinds of behaviors that we've already been observing for 15 to 20 years.

CORNISH: That's Michael Kimmel. He's director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities and a professor at Stony Brook University. Michael, thanks so much for talking with us.

KIMMEL: Pleasure as always, Audie.

CORNISH: And our series on men continues tomorrow with a group of guys who are taking on the notion of what real men like to eat. Hint - it's not all burgers, steaks and ribs. You can follow our series on Facebook and Twitter - altogether now, #menPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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