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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Lyle Olson

Second Advisor

Soo Hyun Cho


This thesis used a mixed-methods approach in order to address research questions concerning the financial socialization and spending habits of Generation Y (or Millennials). Generation Y is commonly held to begin in 1980, and the spectrum of Millennials surveyed for this research project was from 1980 – 1996. Following the selection of survey subjects from a mid-size, Midwestern university, an Internet-based survey was used to determine whether social media and media usage had an impact on spending habits of Millennials. Millennials in the sample size were shown to be less likely to be irresponsible consumers if they consumed more media than those who consumed less. Irresponsible consumer behavior was measured with a composite score of the variables of overspending, overdrafting, unbanked/banked, and credit card use and debt. Since the first study’s median age was ~21 years, the second study employed a qualitative, grounded-theory approach to determine whether media had had a significant impact on the financial socialization of Millennials. The participants were 23 to 33 years old and did not report that they had received a significant amount of financial socialization from media. However, interesting themes emerged from their answers. Generation Y has begun telling its own stories, and generational differences came up in viii the focus groups. Participants responded to news media criticisms that Millennials are incapable of handling their own spending. Further research is needed to expand the study sample beyond the purposeful convenience sample of a mid-size university in the Midwest employed for this study. A more representative sample of Millennials and a larger sample size would be beneficial in gaining more insight into the effect and impact of media on Millennials’ spending habits and financial socialization. News media reports about Millennials’ lack of financial literacy should also be scrutinized before they are accepted as accurate. Research would also be valuable in this regard and take a closer look at negative media representations of Millennials in news reports. But one thing can be said for certain from the results of theses studies: a heavily media saturated environment may not be as damaging as previously believed, and Millennials aren’t nearly as oblivious as they are depicted to be by media.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Generation Y
Consumer behavior
Young adult consumers
Financial literacy
Social media


Includes bibliographical references (pages 101-109)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright