Here are some broad descriptions about the generation known as Millennials: They’re narcissistic. They’re lazy. They’re coddled. They’re even a bit delusional.
(COVER STORY: The Me Me Me Generation)
Those aren’t just unfounded negative stereotypes about 80 million Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000. They’re backed up by a decade of sociological research. The National Institutes of Health found that for people in their 20s, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is three times as high than the generation that’s 65 or older. In 1992, 80 percent of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; ten years later, 60 percent did. Millennials received so many participation trophies growing up that 40 percent of them think they should be promoted every two years – regardless of performance. They’re so hopeful about the future you might think they hadn’t heard of something called the Great Recession.
But that’s merely one way of looking at the largest and most important generation since the Baby Boomers. In this week’s cover story, TIME’s Joel Stein — who has a few Millennial traits himself — examines the overwhelming negative data about Millennials and argues that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. They’re optimistic, they’re confident and they’re pragmatic at a time when it can be difficult just to get by. Those aren’t bad qualities to have, even if it means they spend too much time on their phones.
Click here to read the full story, available exclusively for TIME subscribers.