Thursday, April 28, 2016

Generation X or Y?

Most demographers can agree on the starting and ending birth dates for the Silent Generation (1928-1945) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964).  In both cases, there was a defining historical event, which was the end of World War 2 in the former category and the Civil Rights Act in the latter.  When it comes to the division between Generation X and the Millennials, it is not as clear cut.  I’ve seen the end of Generation X defined as early as 1977 and as late as 1984.  I was born in ’80 so that puts me right in the middle of that range but I identify much more strongly with Generation X.  Though we were not particularly close growing up and did not have mutual friends, I do have an older sister (born in ’76) and hung around mostly with a slightly older crowd in high school.  I am more likely to find common ground with someone born in 1975 rather than 1985.
I would personally set Generation X at 1965-82 and Millennials at 1983-2000 with the new generation currently being born, which is likely to be called the iGeneration, starting in 2001.  That way, it’s consistent at 18 years each.  IMO, '80-'81 are clearly X because we graduated HS in 1999.  '82 could go either way but if you graduated in 2001, I'd label you a Millennial.  Some demographers end the Millennial generation sometime in the mid ’90s so it’s a 15 year group instead of 18 for both X and Y.  Other people my age who have younger siblings or hung around with a younger crowd may identify more as Millennial and I will not dispute whatever you claim to be.

Now let’s take a look at different life experiences-
Older Gen.X- born late ‘60s-early ‘70s:
-Little-no memory of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War (diff w/ Boomers). Only the oldest remember the end of the Nixon administration and Watergate.  Those born after 1970 probably don’t remember much of Ford.
-Grew up during economic stagflation in the late ‘70s-early ‘80s but came of age during the more prosperous Reagan years and thus tend to be more politically conservative.
-Grew up without personal computers, CD players, VCRs and video game consoles though that technology did become available when they were in high school

Later Gen.X- Carter babies (Me)
-Remember the end of the Reagan administration, the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War with a fair amount of clarity.  Clearly remember Bush-41 and the first Gulf War.
-Grew up mostly during the Clinton administration and came of age at a time of peace and prosperity.  As a whole, my age group is not as conservative as older X’ers but not as liberal as Millennials.
-Grew up with VCRs, Walkmans, portable CD players and video game consoles but usually old enough to remember life without them.  Some had access to personal computers at a young age but no internet until high school.
As a whole, there were different experiences but enough common ground to be considered the same generation.

As a 2nd year MBA student at Clemson, freshmen students were born in 1985-86 (definitely Millennial) and I was beginning to find it difficult to relate not just because of the age difference (24 vs. 18 is big) but I also felt that the young undergrads were clearly different than I was at that age.  

Let’s consider life experiences of someone born in 1985 vs 1980 and see how much generation gap exists.
-No memory of the Reagan administration and only faint memories of Bush-41.
-I was a college junior 3 days shy of 21 on 9/11 whereas they were 15 and high school sophomores who came of age during the War on Terror and the Bush-43 administration.
- Got the internet near the end of elementary school and downloaded songs from Napster in high school.  Overall much more at ease with technology than I am.  No memory of life without video game consoles and probably too young for 8-bit Nintendo.
- In terms of Pop culture, they largely missed out on Seinfeld, Seattle grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  Instead, they turned 13 at the height of nu metal and bands such as Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and POD.  I appreciated both genres but prefer the former group.  Cassettes were being phased out and mp3s were coming along.
I’m sure that a person born in the mid ‘90s will be different from an older Millennial but again, there should be enough common ground to be considered the same generation.

I’ve recently gotten hooked on Youtube videos in which today’s teens and tweens react to technology from my generation.  I found it quite amusing that they had no idea what a Walkman is or how to use a VCR.  I also saw them playing some of my old favorite video games.  My reaction is that this age group is clearly different from Millennials that I know and I had a little trouble picking up their slang terms but I liked how they interacted with one another.  I hope to be a mentor or stepfather to someone in the iGeneration someday.


Melissa said...

I like your breakdown/analysis of younger vs. older Gen X and the comparison to millennials. I'm a strategist by profession so I really appreciate the important distinctions in beliefs and behaviors of different generations (and segments within). I find that very rarely are people in tune with beliefs and philosophies outside of their immediate perspectives.

That being said, I also find personally "amusing" because I was born in 1979 (graduated HS in 1997) and do feel a firm "identity" with the Gen X crowd much more so than the millenials for several of the reasons you outlined in your post. I have an associate (if you will) who was born in 1984 who is equally passionate that she is not millennial (I think because of many of the negative connotations surrounding this generation and the appearance of seeming "younger" in the workplace) but when looking objectively at behavior, belief and life experiences I do see it firmly as millennial. I think the cut is somewhere around 1980/81 but don't have any firm data to affirm.

Thanks for the welcome mental distraction this morning!

Crazy J said...

Hey. Thanks for the comment.
I'd put the cutoff at September 1982. The Class of 2000 ('81-82) either turned 18 before 2000 or were in the same class as those who did. '83- Millennial all the way. I'm sure those born in the late '90s will debate when Millennials end and the iGeneration begins.