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Generation X

Generation X is a term used to describe generations in the United States and other countries born between the approximate years of 1965 to 1981, the late 1950s and 1960s, or 1968 to 1979, depending on the source. The term has been used in demography, the social sciences, and marketing, though it is most often used in popular culture.

In Boom, Bust and Echo, author David Foot defines Generation X more narrowly, as those born 1960 - 1966 in Canada and 1958 - 1964 in the US (post birth-peak Boomers). Foot distinguishes Gen Xers from those born 1967 - 1979--the 'Baby Bust' generation. The latter faced many of the same problems as Generation Xers, but, because they were younger, were better positioned for job opportunities when the economy improved.

History of the term

Origins

In the U.S. Generation X was originally referred to as the "baby bust" generation because of the small number of births following the baby boom.

In the UK the term was first used in a 1964 study of British youth by Jane Deverson. Deverson was asked by Woman's Own magazine to conduct a series of interviews with teenagers of the time. The study revealed a generation of teenagers who "sleep together before they are married, don't believe in God, dislike the Queen, and don't respect parents," which was deemed unsuitable for the magazine because it was a new phenomenon. Deverson, in an attempt to save her research, worked with Hollywood correspondent Charles Hamblett to create a book about the study. Hamblett decided to name it Generation X.

13th generation

In the 1991 book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe called this generation the "13th Generation" and defined the birth years as 1961 to 1981. Using their methods, it is the 13th to know the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin). The label was also chosen because they consider it a "Reactive" or "Nomad" generation, composed of those who were children during a spiritual awakening. Older generations generally have negative perceptions of Reactive generations -- whose members tend to be pragmatic and perceptive, savvy but amoral, more focused on money than on art -- and the use of 13 is also intended to associate this perception with the negative connotations of that number. The authors highlighted this negative perception by noting the large number of "devil-child" movies (e.g. Rosemary's Baby) released soon after the first members were born, compared with more positive movies such as Baby Boom that were released when the first members of the next generation were being raised.

Generation X in the United States

For some of this generation, Generation X thinking has significant overtones of cynicism against things held dear to the previous generations, mainly the Baby Boomers.

Generation X grew up during the later years, end of, and the decade following the Cold War. This time included the Ronald Reagan era. The perception of Generation X during the late 1980s was summarized in a featured article in Time Magazine:

. . .They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix . . .This is the twenty-something generation, those 48 million young Americans ages 18 through 29 who fall between the famous baby boomers and the boomlet of children the baby boomers are producing. Since today's young adults were born during a period when the U.S. birthrate decreased to half the level of its postwar peak, in the wake of the great baby boom, they are sometimes called the baby busters. By whatever name, so far they are an unsung generation, hardly recognized as a social force or even noticed much at all...By and large, the 18-to-29 group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the baby boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle and impractical. While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today's twenty-something generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. . .They feel influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits.

In economics, a study was done (by Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute) that challenges the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it. The study, 'Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?" focuses on the income of males 30-39 in 2004 (those born April, 1964 – March, 1974) and is based on Census/BLS CPS March supplement data.

The study, which made national headline news on May 25, 2007, emphasizes that in real dollars, that cohort made less (by 12%) than their fathers at the same age in 1974, thus reversing a historic trend. The study also suggests that per year increases in father/son family household income has slowed (from 0.9% to 0.3% average), barely keeping pace with inflation, though progressively higher each year due to more women entering the workplace contributing to family household income.

Notes

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