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Are Younger People More Idealistic?
By Kymberly Levesque

In two recent blog posts, “What Workers Want: Less Money, More Impact” and “Responsible Investing Taught at More Business Schools,” we explored how younger people expect more out of their career and how business schools are offering more CSR courses. This begs the question: Are younger generations more idealistic?

A recent New York Times column, “Old vs. Young,” by David Leonhardt, highlighted differences between older and younger generations today. The Times notes how the generation gap has been increasing since 2004. Polls suggest that Mitt Romney will secure the over-65 vote in this year’s presidential election, while Obama will likewise win the under-40 vote, both by wide margins.

Such polling across generations also finds that younger generations are more optimistic about the country’s future, are more positive about change and more confident that quality of life in the United States will remain good. This is especially striking to see from younger generations when the effect of the poor economy is considered. The economic impact has been especially hard on younger generations, who have seen their salaries stagnate and have struggled to find employment following college.

When one takes into account the increased course offerings for corporate social responsibility and sustainable, responsible, impact investing at business schools, a picture of a more idealistic generation comes into view. Contrasting the stark realities of current economic times with desires shown by college students, it certainly seems that the younger generations of the country believe better times lie ahead—and that they will have a hand in creating them.

Posted: July 18, 2012