G.I. to X, Y, Z: A Guide Understanding Current Generations
As many of you are, I am part of Generation Y, better known as a Millennial. I studied and learned a great deal about generational gaps, when I was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies for a Rotary International district conference in Bakersfield in 2014. The these of this conference was meant to align the generations and hopefully build a bridge to the generational gap that leads all organizations, not just Rotary, to be aware and very scared of.
You see, when the generations cannot share like minded thoughts, or at least tolerate each other, these social groups will band together to hold their ground. It’s obviously not helpful for any group of persons to be closed-minded, and Rotary has been really proactive in trying to help the generations cohabitate and understand one another to create a more productive future for the masses.
A generation, is a group of people in the world who were born around the same period of time, usually within 15-20 years of each other. For today’s purposes, I’ll be talking specifically about American generations, as that’s where I did a majority of my research years ago. Because these people were born and experienced similar upbringings, cultural traits, morals, and values, as well as historical experiences, they typically have a lot in common and identify with those commonalities as part of a certain generation. That’s, of course, not to say that a young person may have an “old soul” and identify with the values of a G.I. or Boomer, or that a Boomer may be more educated or understanding of current social issues, so they are more connected to Generation X or Y (Millennials). Again, for today’s purposes, I’ll be classifying traits of these generations as a whole, but as with every social group, there are outliers and misclassifications, so be aware, I am not a Sociologist or Generational expert, just someone with space on the world-wide web, trying to evoke understanding.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are 6 living generations currently in America. I’ll give a brief history of the times these generations were brought up in (formative years are crucial here), and some basic generalizations. These social groups have grown up together, and thus, likely share similar likes, dislikes, and qualities. These generalizations should not be used to indicate personal characteristics, because of course, we are all different people, raised in different homes, but as a group, they will have commonalities.
To understand the present, like a every history teacher once said, (I’m sure, I mean, they’re history teachers for god’s sake) we must explore the past! (Seems legit) So hop on this Magic School Bus and I’ll be your tour guide, Mrs. Frizzle, today.
1900 to 1924 - G.I. Generation (AKA The Seniors, G.I. Joe Generation, or The Greatest Generation)
History of the Time Period
These people were born, and/or grew up during the Great Depression and likely fought in WWII.
Think Roaring 20s. Yeah, they were probably a little wild.
Estimated Births During This Time Period: 19-21 Million
Very patriotic and supportive of America and American military.
Known to make and keep promises, low divorce rates, and held family above all else.
Many focused on saving money for posterity at this time.
Contributed to a large majority of Baby Boomers, so they were very busy making and having babies.
Logical, loyal to family, friends, and country, disciplined, wanted to establish family traditions, and aspired to leave a life legacy.
Great team players and firm belief in “right” and “wrong”.
1925 to 1945 - Silent Generation (AKA The Builders, Traditionalists, or Mature Generation)
History of the Time Period
Most lived during post-war excitement. Economy was on the rise.
Many fought in Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Big Band and Swing music generation
Prior to any feminism movements, so women were to stay home and raise the family.
Men were loyal to jobs and companies. This lead to most men getting and keeping the same job for a majority of their lives.
Estimated Births During This Time Period: 47-49 Million
Dubbed the “silent” generation because they just wanted peace after years of war. Seeing what their parents went through, and even what some of them were born into made them long for peace.
Believe in marriage being for life. You did not have children out of wedlock.
Some inherited money from the G.I. Generation, or went on to have great fortune in the post-war economy, leading to some of the wealthiest retirees in history.
Believe in the sanctity of retirement. Once you had enough money, you stopped working and relaxed. You are able to live out the final years of your life enjoying family and peace.
Love to read books, newspapers, the like.
Cautious in decision-making, disciplined, and conservative.
1946 to 1964 - Baby Boomers
History of the Time Period
Grew up in a massive generation that followed wars and The Great Depression.
Some from this generation were known to become your “free love” hippies, experimenting with sex, drugs, and spending money as fast as they earned it, and overextending credit.
Women of this generation began working outside the home and raising children in a dual income household. Women were still responsible for all child raising and house maintenance.
Estimated Births During This Time Period: 76-77 Million
Known to start “non-violent” protests that always ended in violence. Strong wish to change societal standards and increase neighborly love, but also classified as not really putting in true effort to do so.
Generalized to be self-centered and a know-it-all generation.
Okay with being controversial and very apt at voicing an educated opinion verbally or written.
First generation to be at peace with the idea of divorce. If it wasn’t working, you didn’t have to fix it or pretend it was okay for the kids.
First generation to acknowledge and somewhat accept homosexuality. This also brought up the discussion of AIDS and the spread of the disease rising. An interesting fact here is that Boomers did their best to be even overly tolerant of homosexuality, and believing that it was not appropriate to have someone labeled with AIDS, as it would make them stick out further. This, we can assume, began the fascination with individual rights, even if they did not benefit the greater population.
Optimistic, team players, very self-driven.
Understanding and accepting of technology, acknowledged there would be a learning curved but knew it was important.
Love structure, tradition, and respect for authority.
This generation understands and respects retirement, but takes advantage of being younger at the age of retirement and instead of living peacefully, they take on hobbies, thus making them live even longer.
1965 to 1979* - Generation X (AKA Thirteeners, “13th” Generation, or The Busters)
History of the Time Period
Took part in some of the highest levels of education in America to date.
Witness gas shortages and the price of gold skyrocketing.
Also were old enough to understand the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Rise of MTV and grunge.
Some were soldiers in the Gulf War.
Considered to be a very small generation in comparison to their parents, mostly Boomers.
Estimated Births During This Time Period: 55-59 Million
Raised in either divorced or career driven households, the Thirteeners were often going home to an empty house, or to care for siblings.
Problems with isolation, scoffed at protest, wanted self expression but had a hard time pinpointing who they ‘where’.
Late to marry, quick to divorce. Want things now but struggle to save for big ticket items, so they also have money issues traditionally.
Wary of commitment and do not extend loyalty often.
Must be tolerant of all persons, all values can be changed.
Suspicious of large organizations, self-absorbed, cautious, skeptical, and does not always get along with authority. Does not offer respect to authority based on ranking, but rather a personal interaction that either earns or denies appreciation of command.
1980* to 2000* - Generation Y (AKA Millennials, The Mosaics, Echo Boomers, Generation Me, The Bridgers, The Net Generation, Recession Generation)
History of the Time Period
Many old enough to understand 9/11 and watch events unfold.
Children of late Boomers and early Thirteeners.
Grew up in a world that has always had the internet and have never known a world without computers.
Grew up in a world with less petty crime and teen pregnancy, but with large, organized shootings at public places. Learned the world was not safe early on, this was reinforced by wary parents.
Witnessed in 2008, the world’s largest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression.
Older Millennials do not have trouble forming organic relationships with people as they were raised in formative years pre-Facebook, but younger Millennials struggle to connect with others, and to identify with their own self image. Think calling on a landline to chat with friends as opposed to sending texts.
Enormous growth of online companies, revolutionary to the way the world functioned day to day.
Housing prices inflating to such a point that early Gen Yers would not afford to purchase a home.
Waiting to start families, and focusing on career first as a young adult. Can respect the order of School, Career, then Family to avoid broken homes at a young age, different from their parents.
Estimated Births During This Time Period: 62-80 Million
Known to be self-absorbed but very self-conscious of the perception of others.
Strong sense of morals and doing what is right for the masses, not just individual needs.
Huge issue with instant gratification. Buy it online, RIGHT NOW. See what friends are doing every second of the day with various social media apps.
Expect a job to be only a portion of life and struggle to create a healthy work/life balance.
Raised to respect authority, follow a routine or schedule, and feel pressure to make large academic achievements.
Have high expectations for themselves, but prefer not to put in the hard work. A generation of entrepreneurs, some with and some without hustle.
Need unlimited access to information and will be assertive with strong views, even if offensive.
Have been told they are special, and understand individualism, but have a hard time adjusting to life when they are not treated with special hand holding or pats on the back.
2001* to Current* - Generation Z (AKA New Silent Generation, iGen, Centennials, or Boomlets)
History of the Time Period
Expected to have a surge in record births due to relaxed immigration laws and illegal immigration. Studies show they will be a larger generation than the Boomers.
Huge dependency on technology. It’s not a helpful tool anymore, it’s a requirement.
2 major age groups, Tweens aged 10-17 and Toddler/Elementary aged children.
Many have televisions in their rooms, access to video games, online streaming to movies and TV shows, and cellphones.
Gen Z does not know a world without cell phones or instant access to the internet.
Born primarily to Gen X and Y persons, half of Gen Z is expected to take a shift away from technology in response to the saturation of technology in everyday life. Parents are looking at monitoring technology in formative years, and studies are showing it is harmful to allow children to use technology as a crutch.
Estimated Births During This Time Period: Currently Over 73 Million, Estimated to Surpass Boomers
Many are deaf to the plea of others to honor and take care of the environment. They have an eco-hangover, and know that many systems have been set into motion to take care of the world.
These kids are no longer playing with toys at a young age, but leaving the better known toys behind, and growing up faster. ;As children reach the age old enough to navigate a computer, they no longer wish to play with Hot Wheels or Barbie Dolls, rather video games and social medias.
Very versed in being a smart consumer. They price shop, haggle, and know where to go for a discounted product.
Very tolerant of others: races, religions, sexual preferences, etc.
Less likely to drink, do drugs, and go to church.
Always encouraged to have their own, unique thought, and thus not believing everything a person or entity say, including authority figures in school, religious gatherings, or organized government.
Putting off driving, romance, and buying a house. Doesn’t like to go out to the mall or movies, would rather utilize the internet for simplicity and lack of human interaction.
Expected to be less naive of a generation and harder workers.
Also expected to: have trouble connecting in person, read more (online), stay up later, possibly suffer from depression more than previous generations have, due to feeling lonely or isolated.
* Please note that these dates are subject to change depending on what source you are deriving the information from. Generational dates for G.I, Silent, Boomers, and Beginning of Gen X are all agreed upon and typically do not fluctuate on where you are sourcing the information. End dates for Gen X, all dates for Gen Y, and Gen Z are still being decided and have not been concreted as of the date I am writing this article. Also note that the names for each generation I’ve included are the names derived by Neil Howe, William Strauss, and the Population Reference Bureau.
References or Further Reading.
I am aware that this is in no particular format, so deal with it. I didn’t feel like doing APA or MLA style works cited, because this is a blog and I don’t have to! Ha!