Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation
Neil Howe and William Strauss
Vintage, 304 pages, $14

In Search of Authentic Faith: How Emerging Generations Are Transforming the Church
Steve Rabey
Waterbrook, 218 pages, $11.95

Millennials Rising, the fourth collaboration by Neil Howe and William Strauss, is a comprehensive demographic analysis that (they say) points to generational trends. Their work is groundbreaking insofar as it has set the terms for the larger discussion, and their names appear in just about every book coming out on youth these days. As long as you take their research for what it is, hypothesis based on perceived trends, it helps sketch out the broader issues at work on a given group coming of age at a given time.

Howe and Strauss have traced a notable difference between the up-and-coming peer groups known as Generation X and their younger counterparts, whom they tag the Millennials. But even Howe and Strauss, who have more or less set the terms of the discussion, have fiddled with the boundaries for identifying these generations. In their earlier book, Generations (1991), they locate Gen Xers as those born between 1965 and 1976 and Millennials between 1977 and 1994. In Millennials Rising, these have changed to 1961-81 and 1982-2002. This kind of imprecision is the bane of generational studies; boundaries are flexible. These shifting definitions complicate an already confusing picture.

The authors assert that the younger of these, the Millennials, are coming of age with a collective can-do ebullience, in no small measure due to their "hav[ing] been regarded as special since birth and. … more obsessed-over at every age than Xers." They cite the trend in "kinderpolitics" (politicians' championing issues relating ...

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