By Vidhan Rana

Almost every day on my Google News feed, I see stories about the millennials. Also know as Generation Y, they were born after the 1980s and came to age during the 2000s. They are sometimes ridiculed as being lazy and not ambitious. While others say they will change the course of history. Some these very millenials are turning 30 today. They are starting families. They are spending more. Thus, it is important to economic development professionals in the U.S. to learn what this generation is thinking and pay close attention – as they are going to be decision makers in the coming years.

In 2010, Pew Research Center conducted extensive research on the millenials and labeled them as: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. They will start families late. They are more educated than any other generation in the past.

Much like the Baby Boomer generation, not all millenials are the same. A recent book by Jeff Fromm, Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever, established that there are six major types of millenials. They range from hip millenials who say, “I can make the world a better place,” to the anti-millenials who say, “I am too busy taking care of my business or my family to care about much else,” to the clean and green millenials who say, “I care for myself and the world around me.”

In the U.S., many millennials entered the work force after 2007 when the country was going through a prolonged recession. In April 2012, the New York Times reported that one in two college students are either unemployed or underemployed. As the economy recovers, the millenials are beginning to flex their buying power. GE recently announced range kitchen equipment targeted towards the millenials. According to GE’s research, Millenials control $200 billion worth of buying power of the U.S. consumer market.

The true power of the millennial generation has not yet been felt in the economy because of the recession. This could be the generation that may eventually work and spend their way into a recovery that the country so badly needs. It may be a good time to learn more about this generation.

Want to know how well you fit in with the millenials? Take this Pew Research Center survey.