A generation is a social cohort of people that are approximately in the same age group. According to the Pew Research Center, each generation includes people born during 15 to 20-year periods.
Labeling generations is useful because it helps us track the patterns, changes, and experiences of different groups of people as they age within society. When analyzing generations, researchers look at the differences in lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors, and values that vary greatly between generations.
Different groups and researchers draw the lines that divide different generations in different places; for the sake of this article we will go outline what the prestigious Pew Research Center has to say about the primary generations in today’s world.
Age in 2020: 56-74
The Boomer generation is defined by the “boom” in births at the end of World War II. They are currently dwindling in numbers as they get older. In 2019, they were the largest living generation (as of 2020 Millennials have surpassed them in numbers).
Boomers grew up in a time of dramatic political and social turmoil, they were greatly impacted by the Civil Rights Movement, First Wave Feminism, the assassinations of JKF and Martin Luther King Jr, and the Vietnam War. These events shaped the Boomers into a generation with tightly held political views that pushed them into left-leaning or right-leaning ideologies; they have largely shaped the divided political landscape of the present day. After the 80’s, Boomers have grown more conservative and have largely remained religious throughout their lives. The Boomergeneration’s most defining trait is their resourcefulness. Their parents grew up during the Great Depression and instilled in them a great ability to get ahead with whatever resources they have available.
Age in 2020: 40-55
As of 2019, there are 65.2 million people in the Generation X cohort. Gen Xers are the parents of Millennials and Generation Z. This generation is generally small due to the introduction of birth control in the 60’s and the rising rate of divorce in that same decade.
Gen Xers are marked by growing up in a time of shifting societal values. Their mothers (Boomers) were storming the workforce for the first time and pursuing careers; this resulted in Gen Xers being left largely under-supervised for most of their childhood and adolescence. The economic turmoil of the 80’s demanded more from Boomers and created a time in society in which there was less focus on children and more focus on adults. All of these factors contributed to Gen Xers becoming extremely independent individuals and achieving proper work-life balance later in their lives. They are highly educated as they were the first generation in which a college degree became financially rewarding.
Millennials (Generation Y)
Age in 2020: 24-38
Millennials are now the largest generation in the United States. They are a generation that was shaped by the Great Recession, the tech explosion of the early 2000s, and 9/11. The debilitating economic instability of the past few decades coupled with massive student debt has delayed major life events and purchases for Millennials. When compared to their parents and grandparents, they are taking much longer to start a family, purchase a home, and even start a savings account. Most Millennials were born to Gen Xers who pampered and nurtured them and ultimately shaped them into confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented individuals.
Having grown up watching their parents and grandparents devastate the global economy and speed up climate change, Millennials are considered conscious capitalists which means they are most interested in supporting businesses that serve the greater good of society and the environment.
Born after 1995
Age in 2020: 8-25
Generation Z, unlike Millennials, were born into a robust economy and record-low unemployment; however, these optimistic circumstances have all changed within the past few years as climate change has taken a turn for the worse, COVID-19 has devastated the world economy, and political divides are worse than ever—Generation Z is on the cusp of an uncertain future. Because the members of Generation Z are still pretty young, researchers still don’t know too much about them. What they do know is that Generation Z is the most racially diverse generation to date and are on track to be more educated than Millennials.
The downside that has recently defined this generation is they have no knowledge of the world without technology. Researchers suggest that the amount of time this generation spends online is directly correlated to the rise of suicide rates, anxiety, and depression rates within this generation.