Are millennials really the 'most tolerant generation' ever?

Baby Boomers make biggest attitude shift from their parents

In the wake of last week's mass shooting in Charleston, many are wondering how to reconcile the apparent hate crime with the millennial generation's reputation for tolerance.

But that reputation oversimplifies a nuanced set of opinions and people, argues Gene Demby of NPR's "Code Switch."

For example, Demby points to the complex results of a 2014 millennial survey by MTV. The vast majority of respondents agreed everyone should be treated equally and racism has been eliminated.

But the white respondents were also far more likely than people of color to say the government pays too much attention to the problems of racial minorities. In addition, they were far less likely to say that white people have more opportunities than people of racial minorities.

Writing for the Washington Post, Scott Clement argues data reveal that millennials have similar attitudes toward race as previous generations held. He compares different generations' responses to five measures of prejudice on the General Social Survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago.

According to Clement's analysis, Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are actually the generation that changed the most from their parents. Boomers scored lower on prejudice than the previous generation by the widest margin in multiple categories.

Society wants to see millennials as more tolerant because it would mean that historical disparities would "disappear" without anyone doing the hard work of making them happen, argues Demby. "You can see a kind of magical thinking… but it doesn't really explain how we get from just demographic trends to actual substantive change" (Demby, NPR, 6/22; Clement, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/23).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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