Social networking: Gen Xers connect online as often as they do in person
The LSAY has released issue two of the second volume on the young adults who have participated in the study since 1987 and who continue to complete an annual survey. This report examines the social networks of Gen Xers. The Generation X Report for Winter, 2013 is now available online. read more
Young adults in Generation X are as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person, according to a University of Michigan study.
In a typical month, adults in their late 30s report that they engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to about 74 electronic contracts through personal emails or social media.
“Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions,” says Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of The Generation X Report. “but the young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking.”
Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). The study has been funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, and the current report includes responses from 3,027 Gen Xers interviewed in 2011.
According to Miller, studying Gen X social networks is important because these networks, sometimes referred to as “social capital,” are a vital component of the quality of life.
“The size and composition of personal networks is both a reflection of cumulative advantage over years and decades, and an indicator of the resources available to get ahead and deal with problems or challenges that may arise,” says Miller.
In addition to finding a rough parity between personal and electronic networks, Miller found that young adults who completed bachelors or advanced degrees tended to have larger social networks. He also found that survey participants who did not complete high school relied more heavily on traditional personal networks, and less on electronic networking.
Somewhat surprisingly, males reported more personal contacts than females in the course of a typical month – 86 compared to 65. This difference reflects the larger number of hours men reported spending at work, according to Miller. Young women, on the other hand, were slightly more likely to visit family and friends, attend meetings in the community, and do volunteer work.
Overall, in the course of a typical month, participants reported visiting with family and friends eight times, getting together or having personal conversations with co-workers nearly 60 times, attending meetings of social or community groups four times, and engaging in about three hours of volunteer work.
Looking at electronic networking, females were slightly more active, initiating 76 contacts compared to 71 for males. Overall, in the course of a typical month, participants reported sending 39 non-work emails, using Facebook nearly 23 times, using Twitter four times, Skyping once, and sending digital pictures seven times.
“This is the first generation of Americans to reach adulthood at the beginning of the Electronic Era,” says Miller. “So it’s understandable that they should show a substantial mix of tradition and electronic networking as they build and maintain the social capital that will help to carry them through their lives.”
Generation X: How many young adults know their cosmic address?
The LSAY has released its first volume 2 quarterly report on the young adults who have participated in the study since 1987 and who continue to complete an annual survey. This report examines the scientific literacy of Gen Xers about their location in the universe. The Generation X Report for Fall, 2012 is now available online. read more
Fewer than half of Generation X adults can identify our home in the universe – a spiral galaxy. "Knowing your cosmic address is not a necessary job skill, but it is an important part of human knowledge about our universe and—to some extent—about ourselves," said Jon D. Miller, author of "The Generation X Report" and director of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 adults ages 37-40—the core of Generation X.
The latest report examines the scientific literacy of Gen Xers about their location in the universe. Miller provided Generation X participants in the study with a high-quality image of a spiral galaxy taken by the Hubble space telescope, and asked them to identify the image, first in an open-ended response and then by selecting from multiple choices. Forty-three percent of the Gen Xers surveyed were able to provide a correct answer that indicated that they recognized the object as a galaxy similar to our own. Miller found that 53 percent of males correctly identified the image, compared with just 32 percent of females, and that the proportion who identified the image correctly rose steadily with education, from 21 percent who had less than a high school education to 63 percent of those with doctorates or professional degrees.
"One of the factors that contribute to this educational difference is exposure to college-level science courses," Miller said. "The United States is unique in its requirement that all college students complete one year of college science courses as part of a general education requirement. "And because these courses are often taken during the first or second year of college, students who enter college but do not earn a degree are still exposed to college science and other general education courses." Miller also found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed said that this was the first time they had looked carefully at an image from a space telescope, even though four out of five reported that they had seen this kind of image before, often on the Internet.
"One of the important results of the growth of the Internet and the expansion of communication devices is that it is easier today to find high-quality science information than at any previous time in human history," Miller said. "But some of the science information on the Internet is incorrect or misleading, so we asked our survey participants to indicate what sources they would trust for information about the universe." The most trusted sources were information on a website operated by NASA, a program or exhibit in a planetarium or museum, a Public Broadcasting System Nova or a Discovery Channel science show, and a lecture by an astronomy professor. The least trusted source of information was a lecture by a leader of a church or religious group.
Miller also examined the link between knowledge about the universe, as indicated by correctly identifying the Hubble image as a spiral galaxy much like our own, and a variety of personal and policy attitudes. Gen Xers who recognized the image were more likely than those who did not to agree that "When I see images like this, I am reminded of the vastness of the universe" (70 percent vs. 53 percent) and "Images like this show how small and fragile planet Earth is in the context of the universe" (58 percent vs. 44 percent). They were also more likely to agree that "Seeing images like this make me want to learn more about the nature of the universe" (27 percent vs. 19 percent) and "It is very likely that there is intelligent life at many places in the universe" (39 percent vs. 26 percent).
"Unlike our distant ancestors who thought the earth was the center of the universe, we know that we live on a small planet in a heliosphere surrounding a moderate-sized star that is part of a spiral galaxy," Miller said. "There may be important advantages in the short-term—the next million years or so—to knowing where we are and something about our cosmic neighborhood."
Generation X is surprisingly unconcerned about climate change
The LSAY has released its fourth quarterly report on the young adults who have participated in the study since 1987 and who continue to complete an annual survey. This report compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject. The Generation X Report for Summer, 2012 is now available online. read more
As the nation suffers through a summer of record-shattering heat, a new LSAY report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change –uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers.
“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” says Jon D. Miller, author of The Generation X Report.
The new report, the fourth in a continuing series, compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject.
“We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change,” says Miller. “In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so.”
Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers – those born between 1961 and 1981, and now between 32 and 52 years of age.
Only about five percent of those surveyed in 2011 were alarmed about climate change, and another 18 percent said they were concerned about it. But 66 percent said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening, and about 10 percent said they don’t believe global warming is actually happening.
“This is an interesting and unexpected profile,” says Miller. “Few issues engage a solid majority of adults in our busy and pluralistic society, but the climate issue appears to attract fewer committed activists – on either side – than I would have expected.”
Because climate change is such a complex issue, education and scientific knowledge are important factors in explaining levels of concern. Adults with more education are more likely to be alarmed and concerned about climate change, Miller found. And those who scored 90 or above on a 100-point Index of Civic Scientific Literacy were also significantly more likely to be alarmed or concerned than less knowledgeable adults. Still, 12 percent of those who were highly literate scientifically were either dismissive or doubtful about climate change, Miller found. He also found that partisan affiliations predicted attitudes, with nearly half of liberal Democrats alarmed or concerned compared with zero percent of conservative Republicans.
“There are clearly overlapping levels of concern among partisans of both political parties,” says Miller. “But for some individuals, partisan loyalties may be helpful in making sense of an otherwise complicated issue.”
Given the greater anticipated impact of climate change on future generations, Miller expected that the parents of minor children would be more concerned about the issue than young adults without minor children. “Not so,” he says. “Generation X adults without minor children were slightly more alarmed about climate change than were parents. The difference is small, but it is in the opposite direction than we expected.”
Miller found that Gen X adults used a combination of information sources to obtain information on the complex issue of climate change, with talking to friends, co-workers and family members among the most common sources of information.
“Climate change is an extremely complex issue, and many Generation X adults do not see it as an immediate problem that they need to address,” says Miller.
“The results of this report suggest that better educated young adults are more likely to recognize the importance of the problem, but that there is a broad awareness of the issue even though many adults prefer to focus on more immediate issues – jobs and schools for their children – than the needs of the next generation. These results will not give great comfort to either those deeply concerned about climate issues or those who are dismissive of the issue.”
Food: Shared, prepared, organic, and genetically modified
The LSAY has released its third quarterly report on the young adults who have participated in the study since 1987 and who continue to complete an annual survey. This report focuses on how young adults in the LSAY engage in food shopping, preparation, sharing, and making choices about the kinds of foods that they buy and consume. The Generation X Report for Spring, 2012 is now available online. read more
Using survey data collected from approximately 3,000 young adults in 2010, The Generation X Report explores how Americans 36 to 39 years old engage in shopping, cooking and sharing food. As it has been for generations, food is both necessary for sustaining life and a source of sharing and community building. Although many of the young adults in Generation X have grown up surrounded by fast food outlets and advertisements, a substantial majority of these young adults are actively involved in shopping and cooking, preparing an average of 42 meals per month. Comparatively, they reported buying about eight fast food meals each month and three meals in a “good” restaurant.
“These results suggest that young adults in Generation X are actively involved in learning about and selecting the food that they consume, talking with their friends about food matters, and sharing cooking for and entertaining guests in their home,” says Jon D. Miller, author of The Generation X Report. “Young adults who are married reported more frequent shopping and cooking by the female member of the family, but young married men also displayed a relatively high level of food involvement – shopping, cooking, talking to friends, and watching television shows about food and cooking.”
According to Miller, about nine percent of Generation X adults are strongly committed to buying organic foods whenever possible, while 39% report that they buy organic sometimes – suggesting that availability, price, and other factors enter into the buying decision. Half of the young adults in Generation X indicated that they rarely or never buy organic foods.
Most Generation X young adults indicated a general awareness of genetically modified foods, but displayed a relatively lower level of understanding of the process of genetic modification or its use in domestic food supplies. Using a set of five questions, the LSAY found that the adults in Generation X had a mean score of 3.8 on a zero-to-10 scale. These results suggests that many Generation X young adults have a limited exposure to and understanding of the food production process – traditional or genetic – and that they cannot readily identify products or issues associated with genetic modification.
Among other findings:
- The general level of scientific literacy was a strong predictor of the level of understanding of genetically modified foods and trust sources of expertise such as the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and university-based agricultural researchers.
- Young adults cook for and entertain guests in their home about once each month and join in group cooking activities with other adults five or six times each year.
- To learn about foods and cooking, young adults reported that they watch a food and cooking show on television about four times each month, look for food information online about three times each month, and read a magazine story about food twice a month. The also get and give food information by talking to friends about food about six times each month and they share recipes by email about once each month.
“The young adults in Generation X are socially active and food is an important part of that process,” says Miller. “These young adults have not withdrawn from interacting with their friends and neighbors to stare at a computer screen or a television set as some social critics have suggested. Many of these young adults are in two-job marriages and two-thirds of Generation X young adults have minor children at home. They are very busy and food preparation and sharing become one part of their family dynamic – both husbands and wives share in buying and preparing food.”
The fourth Generation X Report will be issued in July, 2012, on the topic of attitudes toward climate change. Subsequent reports will cover space exploration, citizenship and voting, and personal and family privacy in the Electronic Era.
Coping with Influenza: How young Americans reacted to an influenza epidemic
The LSAY has released its second quarterly report on the young adults who have participated in the study since 1987 and who continue to complete an annual survey. This report focuses on how young adults in the LSAY learned about and made sense of the 2009 swine flu epidemic. The 2009 swine flu epidemic was the first major epidemic experienced by young adults in Generation X and it was most dangerous to children and young adults rather than older Americans, which is often the case with influenza. The Generation X Report for Winter, 2012, has been mailed to all active participants and is available online. read more
Using survey data collected from approximately 3,000 young adults during the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza epidemic – the first serious infectious disease this group had ever experienced – The Generation X Report explores how Americans ages 36-39 kept abreast of the issue and what actions they eventually took to protect themselves and their families. The results from the LSAY found that only about one in five young adults in their late 30’s received a flu shot during the 2009-2010 swine flu epidemic. But about 65 percent were at least moderately concerned about the flu, and nearly 60 percent said they were following the issue very or moderately closely.
“These results suggest that young adults in Generation X did reasonably well in their first encounter with a major epidemic,” says Jon D. Miller, author of The Generation X Report. “Those with minor children at home were at the greatest risk, and they responded accordingly, with higher levels of awareness and concern.”
According to Miller, understanding Generation X reactions to this recent threat may help public health officials deal more effectively with future epidemics.
The results also show that even though a majority of Generation X young adults felt that they were ‘well informed’ or ‘very well informed’ about the issue, overall they scored only moderately well on an Index of Influenza Knowledge, a series of five items designed to test the level of knowledge about viral infections generally and about the swine flu epidemic specifically.
Among other findings:
- Young adults with minor children at home were most likely to follow the news about influenza closely and were most concerned about the swine flu epidemic.
- Young adults were most likely to report getting information about the epidemic from friends, co-workers and family members. In the month before the survey, they reported having about nine such conversations, compared to getting news about the flu less than three times via print or broadcast media, and about five times from searching the internet.
- The most trusted sources of information about the influenza epidemic were physicians, followed by the National Institutes of Health, pharmacists at local drug stores, and nurses from county health departments. The least trusted sources were YouTube videos, drug company commercials, and Wikipedia articles.
“In the decades ahead, the young adults in Generation X will encounter numerous other crises – some biomedical, some environmental, and others yet to be imagined,” says Miller. “They will have to acquire, organize and make sense of emerging scientific and technical information, and the experience of coping with the swine flu epidemic suggests how they will meet that challenge.”
The third Generation X Report will be issued in April 2012, on the topic of food and cooking. Subsequent reports will cover climate, space exploration, and citizenship and voting.
2011 LSAY cycle of data collection is nearing the end
The 2011 LSAY questionnaires were mailed to participants who have been responding to printed questionnaires and emailed to respondents who normally complete online in November. Due to technical difficulties with our online support services, the launch date was approximately 10 days later in 2011 than in earlier years, but the rate of completion is running slightly ahead of previous years. Participants who have not completed their 2011 questionnaire will be reminded when they receive the printed copy of The Generation X Report in late January. Jon Miller, the Director of the LSAY, reminded participants that the credibility of the study’s results with national policy makers depends in large part on the rate of response. read more
Miller notes that “the LSAY has had one of the highest response rate of any national longitudinal study, but that users of the results – journalists, Congressional staff, and public officials – continue to look carefully at the percentage of eligible participants who actually respond.” Miller thinks that the strong LSAY response rate reflects a combination of several years of prior experience with the study and a record of sharing results with the participants. The current series of reports – The Generation X Reports – have been positively received by LSAY participants and appears to have stimulated an increased response rate.
If you are a participant in the LSAY and your address has changed during the last year, you can use the Participants page on this web site to report your change of address. If you have not received an email or a printed version of the 2011 questionnaire, you can send us a message on the Contact Us page, or you can call our toll free number at 1-800-984-5271.