Canadian Millennial Social Values Study

Toronto, ON – February 15, 2017 A new national survey released today by the Environics Institute reveals a bold portrait of Canada’s Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995), that for the first time presents the social values of this generation, and the distinct segments that help make sense of the different and often contradictory stereotypes that so frequently are applied to today’s young adults.

The results show that Millennials cannot be lumped into a single group defined by their age, or by other demographic characteristics such as gender, region or socio-economic status. They are a diverse part of the Canadian society, made up of six social values “tribes”, each reflecting a distinct worldview and approach to life. While Millennials may share some common experiences and aspirations as befits their stage in life, there are notable differences in outlook and life path across these tribes, be they “Engaged Idealists,” “Bros and Brittanys,” or “Lone Wolves.”

The study built on the foundation of Environics’ Research leading-edge social values research to better understand how Millennials are taking their place in society through the lens of their social values, with a focus on their life goals and what it means to be an adult, career aspirations and work experience, and political and social engagement.

Key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Fewer than half of Canadian Millennials say they have enough money to live the kind of life they want, and many feel they are not doing as well as their parents did in their youth. But this generation is notably optimistic about their future financial prospects, and this is most evident among those born outside Canada, and those with Asian or other non-white ethnic backgrounds.

  • What Millennials most want out of work and career is a good balance between work and their personal life, followed by financial security, wealth generation, and flexibility on the job. Making an important contribution to society is of strong importance to some Millennials and not so much to others, based on their social values.

  • Millennials with a post-secondary degree were asked, if they could do it over again, what would they would do. Just under half say they would have completed the same post-secondary education. But a slightly higher proportion indicate they would have followed a different path, either pursuing a different type of post-secondary education or done something else instead of getting a degree.

  • Low voter turnout has earned Millennials a reputation for being disconnected from politics and current events, but this is more stereotype than reality. Most follow news and current events at least daily if not more frequently, and significant proportions pay attention to politics at the local, national and international levels. Social media is the most common platform, but surprisingly large numbers also rely on such traditional media such as TV, print newspapers and radio.

  • One in four Millennials has been actively engaged in a cause or issue in the past year, mostly involving social justice, the environment, politics or health care. Such involvement is linked to education as well as social values. Members of this generation tend to get involved through online channels, but a significant proportion also seek to participate in person at events or group meetings.

The study was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with The Counselling Foundation of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Apathy is Boring.

The survey is based on interviews conducted online with a representative sample of 2,072 Canadians aged 21 to 36 across the country between July 6 and August 31, 2016. The sample was stratified by age, gender and region (margin of error statistics do not apply to online surveys that employ non-probability samples).


Executive Summary - English

Executive Summary - French

Detailed Tables - results by region and demographics

Media Release - English

Media Release - French

Commentary by Michael Adams


Are you a Millennial?  Find your Tribe HERE


Watch Keith Neuman's presentation at Cannexus 17


For more information, contact Keith Neuman


Background.  Millennials make up almost a quarter of the Canadian population. The cohort of Canadians born between 1980 and 1995  (now aged 21 to 36) is among the largest in the country’s history, and is literally the country’s future: who they are today and what they become will shape Canada for the next half-century and beyond. Leaders must find ways to engage these young adults as citizens, consumers, employees, voters, and donors.

Much of what passes for analysis of the youngest generation of Canadian adults amounts to little more than anecdote and stereotype. Aside from data on youth unemployment and student debt, the Canadian conversation is remarkably devoid of solid evidence about how Millennials live, what they think, what they value, what they want, or what they hope to achieve. Are they motivated strivers facing a tough job market, or entitled brats who are too picky to accept an unfulfilling job?  Are they talented digital innovators or just screen addicts? Have they been nurtured by their Boomer parents’ loving encouragement, or are they entitled narcissists poisoned by a lifetime of unearned praise? Newspapers, newsfeeds, and dinner tables teem with opinions.

Perhaps the biggest limitation in this discussion is how it lumps an entire generation into a single group, the implicit assumption being that age alone is the defining characteristic. This type of shorthand misses the important insights revealed by Michael Adams a decade and a half ago in his book Sex in the Snow. In that bestselling analysis of Canadian society, Adams showed that demography is no longer destiny, and that every generation is composed of distinct subgroups or “tribes”, each defined by a unique constellation of social values by which individuals orient themselves to the world and their lives.

Over the past two decades, Environics has pioneered the application of social values theory and analysis to improve our understanding of modern society and social trends. This work has proven of practical benefit to governments, businesses, and non-profits in Canada and abroad. Environics’ ongoing research program has now been applied to understanding Canada’s Millennial generation, which is the most diverse generation in the country’s history, not only across ethnic, national and religious backgrounds, but also in terms of their values and life choices. Millennials fall into six main values segments.