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Background & Demographics

To examine generational differences among public sector employees, the following 10 public sector organizations’ employees were surveyed: City of Milwaukee, Wis.; Office of the New York State Comptroller; Fairfax County, Va.; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Loudoun County, Va.; State of Ohio; Jackson County, Ore.; Haltom City, Texas; State of Wyoming; and City of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The sample comprised 3,584 government employees, 31% of whom are millennials, 33% are in Generation X and 36% are baby boomers.

  • The majority of respondents (57%) are female.
  • For their highest level of education, the greatest proportion of employees achieved an undergraduate degree (32%), followed by a graduate degree or higher (25%). The millennials were much more likely to have achieved an undergraduate degree as their highest level of education (Y-41%, X-29%, B-20%; see the note below).
  • The majority of surveyed public sector employees (56%) are members of labor unions and do not work in the field of public safety. Public safety employees surveyed were much more likely to be from Generation X (Y-26%, X-41%, B-20%) and much less likely to belong to a labor union (Y-56%, X-46%, B-65%).
  • The greatest proportions of employees surveyed are front-line contributors (42%). Front-line contributors are much more likely to be millennials (Y-55%, X-36%, B-37%). Gen Xers and baby boomers more typically hold supervisory or mid-level management positions.
  • A nearly equal percentage of employees surveyed have worked in the public sector from 1 to 11 years (50%) and for 12 or more years (51%). Baby boomers are more apt to have worked in the public sector for 22 years or more, while Gen Xers were more likely to have worked for 12-16 years, and millennials for 2-6 years.
  • The majority of employees (61%)surveyed have worked at their current organization for 10 years or less. Millennials were more apt to have worked in their organizations for 1-5 years, Gen Xers for 11-15 years, and baby boomers for 21 years or more.

Please Note: Throughout this report, Y = millennials, X = Generation X and B = baby boomers. Also, a ↑ means significantly higher, a ↓ means significantly lower and no arrow means that percentages are essentially equivalent. Statistically significant differences across generations were determined through cross-tabulation and a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Percentages do not always total 100 due to rounding and multi-select questions being asked.

Opinions About Government & Motivations for Working in the Public Sector

Gender

Percentage
n=3,330

Male

43%

Female

57%

Highest Level of Education

n=3,344

Less than high school

0.1%

High school/GED

21%

Associate’s degree

15%

Undergraduate degree

32%

Some graduate school

8%

Graduate degree or higher

25%

Level of Government Where Employed

n=3,352

State

55%

City/Town

19%

County

27%

Regional/Special district

0.1%

Education

0

Federal

0.1%

Labor Union Member

n=3,342

Yes

56%

No

40%

Decline to report

4%

Job Function

n=3,311

Front-line contributor

42%

Lead worker

26%

Supervisor

15%

Mid-level management

13%

Senior executive/command/senior management/department head

4%

Elected official

0.2%

Public Safety Employee

n=3,354

Yes

29%

No

65%

Unsure

6%

Length of Time at  Current Organization

n=3,543

Less than a year

9%

1-5 years

31%

6-10 years

20%

11-15 years

15%

16-20 years

10%

21+ years

14%

Length of Time Worked in Public Sector

n=3,550

1 year or less

7%

2-6 years

23%

7-11 years

20%

12-16 years

17%

17-21 years

11%

22+ years

23%