We hear generalizations designed to categorize everyone who falls into one generation name over another. But what do they say about yours?
Before I looked up the generation name that officially applies to me, I loosely identified with Baby Boomers. I guess that makes sense to a point because people consider me to be an “old soul.”
But I’m not officially a Baby Boomer.
And yes, there is an generation name that applies to you, based solely on your year of birth.
Why do we need generation names anyway?
You can spend all day arguing whether such labels are fair. I imagine you could make a good case against such labels on either side fo the debate.
CareerPlanner points out an interesting fact: American, or Western designations won’t exactly match up with those from other parts of the world. “Japan and Asia and portions of Europe will have their own generational definitions based on major cultural, political, and economic influences,” its site states.
I never even thought about that, but it just proves that the titles can be subjective based on many factors, not just when your birth occurred.
Researchers can then group people born within a similar timeframe together. That allows them to examine concerns of different groups based on their stage in life.
Which generation name applies to me?
The list varies from source to source. No, really.
Parents.com makes it clear: It’s not so clear.
“While there is some consensus among social scientists about the general periods of time for each generation, there is no clear-cut line defining when one generation ends and another begins,” its site states.
And yes, while I’ve looked at a variety of sources, I’ve seen variance from one to another. Keep in mind, then that the birth year ranges are estimates.
Some sites begin their charts with with the “Greatest Generation,” the one popularized by journalist Tom Brokaw in his book of the same title. Other tables go back before the start of the 20th century to describe our great — or even great-great — grandparents.
So what I’ll try to do here is break down the generation names based on combining a few sources. Remember: You’ll find different listings on different sources. I’ve tried to find the ranges on which there seems to be reasonable agreement.
The ‘Lost’ Generation: Born from 1890 to 1915?
Why do we call them ‘lost’? Well, for one thing, the youngest member of this generation would be more than 130 years old, so it’s unlikely any of them remain alive at this point. But much more than that, it refers to a group of writers who came of age during World War I. They grew up in a world in which the values they inherited no longer seemed relevant.
The Greatest Generation: Born from 1910 to 1924
For many of us, our grandparents were part of this group. Tom Brokaw wrote about this determined generation, the ones who fought and one World War II. If that weren’t enough of a challenge, they raised their families during the Great Depression. Researchers say they value a strong work ethic and determination.
The Silent Generation: Born from 1925 to 1945
It’s a smaller generation thanks to both the Great Depression and World War II when families had fewer children. But it’s also called “silent” because it was a generation that came of age during the McCarthy years when it was deemed wise not to stir the pot.
Time magazine said in 1951 people born during this time were “a still, small flame” who did “not issue manifestoes, make speeches or carry posters.”
Ironically, however, it was the Silent Generation that produced some of the loudest Civil Rights activists and leaders of our time, including the likes of Harry Belafonte, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, the Little Rock Nine, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
My parents fall into this generation. They grew up during the Great Depression, which made them thrifty. They also tend to respect authority more than later generations.
The Baby Boomer Generation: Born from 1946 to 1964
Baby Boomers get their name from the literal “baby boom” that happened when soldiers returned from World War II.
They’re the first generation to grow up in front of the television. Today, they remain the largest consumer of traditional media like television and newspapers.
Unlike their parents, who tended to have a deep respect for authorities, Baby Boomers were comparative “trouble makers.” They protested the Vietnam War. They came of age during (and often took part in) the turbulence of the 1960s.
Generation X: Born from 1965 to 1980
This is the generation name I got stuck with. Oddly enough, my parents and I are two generations apart, based on where the cutoff was. My folks had me when they were in their mid-20s, so it wasn’t like I came late in their life.
Generation X got its name because of its refusal to be defined. But that, of course, won’t stop people who came up with this generation name — and all of the others, for that matter — to try their best to define them anyway.
My generation grew up as computers first came into the home. (I distinctly remember seeing one the very first home computers, the Texas Instruments TI-99 in person at my elementary school!) We still consume TV and newspapers, but we also are the first generation to become tech savvy. We’re the generation who gets frustrated at having to explain to our folks how to work their email or their phones. To us, it’s so elementary. To them, to some degree, it’s still alien technology.
We’re supposed to be independent, flexible, critical thinkers and self-reliant. Some of us in my category might actually be defined as all four.
Generation Y [Millennials]: Born from 1981 to 1996
You hear endlessly about Millennials. Much of what you hear is not always flattering. But there’s an important reason for that: At the point, Millennials are the largest group currently living. Since they’re the biggest one, everyone in and outside of that group has an opinion, fair or not.
Most Millennials were old enough to comprehend the historical significance of 9/11. And they came of age when America elected its first Black president. That resonated because of the impact of the younger voice in the election as well as the fact that they’re the most ethnically diverse adult generation in history.
They’re also, currently, the generation with the most money. So advertisers are particularly interested in reaching them. Unlike older generations, Millennials are said to be less brand loyal, which means advertisers may have a better chance at reaching them to close a sale.
Some say Millennials are far more likely than Gen X to change jobs more often as they look for something bigger and better. This can sometimes look bad on a resume; some employers like a bit more stability. They’re said to be open and adaptive to change, to challenge the hierarchy status-quo and to have a passion for learning.
Generation Z: Born from 1997 to 2012
The most interesting thing about Gen Z is that they’re the first “digital native” generation. They never lived in a time when the internet wasn’t a big portion of most people’s lives. Extreme Reach takes it a step further, saying Gen Z “lives online” and both use and trust the internet more than their predecessors. An Adweek found 72% of Gen Z want a website to already know what they’re looking for. While they surely know about “Big Brother,” they don’t seem to mind sites knowing all about them as long as they get what they want in return.
The old-school conservatives out there won’t like this fact: Pew Research says Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet.
“Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations,” Pew reported.
Generation Alpha: Born from 2013 to the Present
Why Alpha? Well, remember last hurricane sesaon, when we ran out of storm names? We started over with the Greek alphabet? Well, the first letter there, of course, just happens to be Alpha. So when they needed the next generation name after Gen. Z, why not go Greek there, too!
What do we know about the Alphas? Well, very little, since the oldest in their group isn’t even 10 years old yet. The Atlantic said some believe they’ll surpass Gen. Z as the most well-educated, the most diverse and the wealthiest when their time comes. It also reports some researchers expect them to the most impatient, since they’re not only used to the internet, but also used to getting all of their questions answered and desires fulfilled faster because of it.