< Back to front page Text size +

Final words on Generations X and Y

Posted by Joshua Glenn  April 17, 2008 11:28 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Were you born between 1954 and 1993? Confused about what generation you belong to? Read on. Everything will be explained. And there's a handy chart at the end of this post!

A LOST GENERATION

Despite the social-scientific-sounding claims made by journalists and marketing consultants (or, in the case of pop demographers like Neil Howe and William Strauss, Meredith Bagby, and Jonathan Pontell, some unholy combination of the two), not to mention political advocacy groups like Third Millennium, a generation isn't a sociological fact. That doesn't mean, however, that you can arbitrarily select two dates and name everyone born between them a member of a generation; if it doesn't feel like a good fit to most of those people, then something is wrong with your theory.

For example, Americans who were born between the mid-1940s -- 1944, in my reckoning; though others would set the start date at 1946 (Census Bureau) or 1943 (Howe and Strauss) -- and the early 1950s (1953, in my reckoning) tend to agree that they're Boomers. Fine! No problem there. But many Americans born from 1954 through the early 1960s don't feel like Boomers; in fact, many of them actively resent and/or scorn the Boomers. In the early 1990s, the zinester Candi Strecker claimed that Americans who, like herself, were born between the mid-1950s and early 1960s were members of the "Repo Man" generation; she was referring to the 1984 cult movie directed by Alex Cox (1954) and starring Emilio Estevez (1962), both members of the lost generation in question. Around the same time, Douglas Coupland published his first novel, "Generation X" (1991), the title of which seemed to suggest that North Americans more or less the same age as the author (b. 1961) didn't feel like Boomers. In the early 2000s, Jonathan Pontell offered a new name for this lost generation, whose members he claimed were born between 1954 and 1965: "Generation Jones."

In the past year or so, Barack Obama (b. 1961) has become the spokesman for this lost generation, because of his insistence that his generation's worldview and politics aren't a Baby Boomer's.

My own periodic table of American generations -- which is eccentric, inflexible, and therefore 100 percent correct -- indicates that the lost generation in question was born between 1954 and 1963. Mr. Pontell was close, but off by a few years on the end date. In honor of Mr. Coupland, I've called this impressive, influential, and anti-Boomer cohort the "Original Generation X" (OGXers).

GENERATION X & TWENTYSOMETHINGS

But what of the Generation X we heard so much about in the 1990s?

In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; and in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77. Neil Howe and William Strauss's bestselling books "Generations" (1991) and "13th-Gen" (1993) claimed that the post-baby-boom "13ers" (aka Gen X) were born between 1961-81. (However, in their 1997 book "The Fourth Turning," Howe and Strauss confessed that the members of this so-called generation didn't buy into it: "Compared to any other generation born in this century, [the 13th generation] is less cohesive, its experiences wider and its culture more splintery.") In 1993, the political advocacy group Third Millennium, announced that it had formed to represent the concerns of those Americans who'd been dubbed "twentysomethings" or "Generation X"; following Howe and Strauss, its leaders claimed that the cohort in question was born between 1961 and 1981. And in her 1998 book, "Rational Exuberance: The Influence of Generation X on the New Economy," a young economist named Meredith Bagby (b. 1974) said she was proud to be a member of Generation X, which she defined as those born between 1965-76.

Why so much confusion? Because there never was a Generation X. It was just a placeholder label, lifted from Douglas Coupland by journalists, marketing consultants, and others, and applied to anyone and everyone born from the mid-1960s on. No wonder that nobody -- except Meredith Bagby -- ever identified as an Xer. Ironically, Bagby is not a member of the overdetermined generation in question. According to my periodization scheme, Americans born between 1964 and 1973 are members of an ambivalent (not apathetic), fragment-brooding, rejuvenile generation that I've called Generation PC (PCers).

GENERATION Y & MILLENNIALS

Who, then, are these Millennials and Generation Yers that we've heard so much about? According to the consumer research outfit Iconoculture, Millennials are those Americans who were 29 and under in 2007; i.e., the first Millennials were born in 1978. Newsweek, meanwhile, has described the Millennials as those born between 1977-94. The New York Times has called "Generation Y" those born from 1976-90, and those born from 1978-98. In their 2000 bestseller "Millennials Rising," Howe and Strauss claimed that Millennials were born between 1982 and 2002. (The nice thing about a flexible generational periodization scheme is that you can neatly peg the Millennials to 1982, which allows the first-born of their cohort to graduate in the year 2000.)

All of these guesstimates are off, though Howe and Strauss came close with the start date, and Newsweek was close with the end date. There never was a Generation Y; like Generation X, it was a placeholder label that lumped together young Americans who were actually members of discrete generations. According to my inflexible periodization scheme, the shiny-happy, but good-hearted Millennials were born between 1984 and 1993.

But wait! All this confusion about Generation Y should make us suspicious. Especially now that we've learned that an entire generation -- the OGXers -- went missing for decades, and that some members of another generation -- the PCers -- were mistakenly called Generation X. What about the rest of this so-called Generation X, i.e., those Americans born from the mid-1970s through, say, 1981 (the end fate of Howe and Strauss's 13th Generation)? And what about the so-called Gen Yers and Millennials who were born before 1984?

Did we lose another post-Boomer generation?

ONE OF OUR GENERATIONS IS MISSING!

Yes, we did.

However, thanks to my inflexible and therefore completely accurate periodization scheme, I've located the lost generation and they're safe and sound. The Net Generation, as I call these Web-savvy, boss-flustering, heavily tattooed Americans, were born between 1974 and 1983. In other words, the older Netters were lumped in with younger PCers and called "Generation X," while the younger Netters were lumped in with older Millennials and called "Generation Y." What a drag.

They're a great bunch of young people. Let's not lose track of them again, OK?

***

Still feel confused about which generation you belong to, and which generations you've been accused of belonging to, by misguided journalists, unscrupulous marketers, and others? If you were born between 1954 and 1993, consult the following chart.

1954-60: OGXers

1954: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65). NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the previous generation (in this case, Boomers).

1955: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65).

1956: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65).

1957: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65).

1958: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65).

1959: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65).

1960: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65).

1961-1965: A confusion of OGXers and PCers

1961: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72.

1962: You're an OGXer> But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72.

1963: You're an OGXer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the next generation (in this case, PCers).

1964: You're a PCer. But you were lumped in with the Boomers. (The Census Bureau defines the baby boom as births during the years 1946 to 1964.) William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the previous generation (in this case, OGXers).

1965: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Jonathan Pontell claims you're a member of "Generation Jones" (1954-65). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1966-1971: PCers

1966: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1967: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1968: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1969: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1970: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1971: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1972-76: A confusion of PCers and Netters

1972: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76). In 1990, Time Magazine claimed that the "twentysomething" generation was born between 1961-72; in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1973: You're a PCer. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76); in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the next generation (in this case, Netters).

1974: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76); in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the previous generation (in this case, PCers).

1975: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76); in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77.

1976: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Meredith Bagby claims you're Generation X (1965-76); in 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90.

1977-81: Netters

1977: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). In 1997, Time claimed that "Generation X" was born between 1965-77. Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90.

1978: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1979: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1980: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1981: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Thirteenth Generation" (1961-81); Third Millennium, following Howe and Strauss, claim you're Generation X (1961-81). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1982-1990: A confusion of Netters and Millennials

1982: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1983: You're a Netter. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the next generation (in this case, Millennials).

1984: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the previous generation (in this case, Netters).

1985: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1986: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1987: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1988: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1989: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1990: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. In a 2000 story, The New York Times described "Generation Y" as "the young people between 10 and 24"; this suggests that Yers were born from 1976-90. But a 1999 Times story describes Yers as having been born from 1978-98.

1991-1993: Millennials

1991: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98.

1992: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98.

1993: You're a Millennial. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the next generation (in this case, an unnamed one).

1994-2003: An unnamed generation

1994: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). Newsweek has described the "Millennials" as those Americans born between 1977 and 1994. A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98. NB: You were born in a cusp year, and might identify with the previous generation (in this case, Millennials).

1995: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98.

1996: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98.

1997: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98.

1998: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002). A 1999 Times story describes members of "Generation Y" as having been born from 1978-98.

1999: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002).

2000: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002).

2001: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002).

2002: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way. William Strauss and Neil Howe placed you in their "Millennial Generation" (1982-2002).

2003: You're a member of a generation that's too young to characterize in any remotely meaningful way.

***

BRAINIAC'S GUIDE TO AMERICA'S RECENT GENERATIONS

1904-13: The Greatest Generation Partisans
1914-23: The Greatest Generation The New Gods
1924-33: The Silent Generation postmodern Generation
1934-43: The Silent Generation Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation
1944-53: Baby Boomers
1954-63: Baby Boomers OGX (Original Generation X)
1964-73: Generation X PC Generation
1974-83: Generation Y Net Generation
1984-93: Millennials

Please credit Brainiac/Joshua Glenn whenever you use this guide. Got a beef with my periodization, or different generational name suggestions? Leave a comment on this post or email me. Born between 1954 and 1993 and still unsure about whether you're a Boomer, Xer, Yer, or Millennial? Here's a handy guide.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

9 comments so far...
  1. My observations:

    I was born in 1980, my siblings in 1983, and 1986. We fill the Generation Y/Millenial bit to a tee. We came of age around the turn of the Millenium.

    Our parents were born in 1956. They consider themselves as Boomers. Boomers are those who were born in the 10 years FOLLOWING WWII. 1946-1956.

    My husband was born in 1980. He considers himself a Millenial too.

    His sister was born in 1978. She feels in between although there is just a two year difference. She married someone 8 years older--someone who identifies with Generation X.

    His parents were born in 1951 and 1953 and feel and act like undisputed Boomers.

    My best friends in this city were born in 1980 and 1981--they say they are Millenials.

    My other closest friends were born in 1970 and 1973, they say they are Gen X. Indeed, their childhood memories took place in the 1970s--when I and my friends and other siblings weren't even around.

    On my father's side, cousins span a 22 year difference--yes, I have cousins who are young enough to be my children--those parents of boomers had lots of kids!

    The personality change seems to come around 1990-1991. That's the second swing of grandchildren and they do just seem to have a different outlook thus far.

    On my mother's side, the family spans even longer, 1971-2001. My older cousins and I don't have the same memories of growing up with computers or pop culture references. Again, the changes are different for those born in the 1970s than the 1980s, than the 1990s, then the early 2000s. The youngest grandchild was born 2 days before 9/11.

    Therefore, I see the deliniation of dates as the following based on what I've experienced:

    1946-1960: Boomers
    1961-1976: Generation X
    1976-1990: Generation Y

    Posted by AB-G April 20, 08 11:32 AM
  1. AB-G, I see no reason why I should argue with someone who can't even spell "millennial," or -- for that matter -- someone who was born in 1980 but doesn't remember "growing up with computers or pop culture references." Or someone who claims that Boomers were born from 1946-56, and also 1946-60. However, let me set you straight. Yes, your parents are Boomers. You're a Netter, and your youngest sibling is a Millennial. Your middle sibling is on the cusp, and could well identify with either generation. As for your periodization, you're just parroting what you've been told by Time and Newsweek; like them, you're overlooking two lost generations (OGXers and Netters). There is no Gen X or Gen Y!

    Posted by Josh Glenn April 20, 08 11:42 AM
  1. Other thoughts:

    1) Just because you want to think of yourself as younger, doesn't mean that you ARE younger. Sure a lot of those late 1950s births just don't want to think of themselves as minivan driving, helicopter parenting, soccer moms?

    2) People who were born in the late 1920s fought in the World War II. These include my grandparents and great-uncles. It's a bit insulting actually not to refer to anyone of military age during the 1940-1945 as NOT "The Greatest Generation." Their service to their country in time of need gave them this moniker. Therefore, I don't buy into the years given there. If you were born in 1925 like my grandfather who fought at the Battle of the Bulge as a 17 year old enlistee and had a Great Depression childhood (very Grapes of Wrath-esque) you are a member of this generation. My other grandparents who were born in 1928 remember the Depression with great clarity.

    3) Siblings will also play a huge role. If you are the oldest of a troupe of kids born in the 1980s you will feel different than the last of a troupe of kids that started in the 1970s.

    4) The word "generation" by its very word always seems to connotate ages of a 15-20 year span. Yes, I realize most 15 year olds don't give birth to the next generation but they are physically able. That also fits in with a birth rate for new parents that is approaching 30. Having all these little 7 year "lost pieces" seems to not fit the bill as a "generation" in the strictest sense.

    5) The fact is a Millenial and a member of the so-called "Net Generation" experienced largely the same things and continue to do so. I can't speak with any authority on OGX and GX.

    As a child born in 1980 I remember the following: My Little Pony, Smurfs, Voltran, Jem, Lite Brites, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Career Barbies, LA Gear sneakers, Jordache...the first presidential election I remember was in 1988--I voted for Dukakis on Nickelodeon. I remember the first Sega system and the first Nintendo system. I remember getting a $200 Game Boy--the old gray kind in 1992. I remember the 1992 elections very clearly. I remember the first Gulf War very clearly. I remember the first 1984 Apple computer which we had at home and using the real floppy desks at the one computer my elementary school had. That was followed by an Apple Performa in the early 1990s. I got to experience the internet for the first time in 1997 (I grew up in small town Pennsylvania).

    Now we face competitive college admissions, staggering student loans, no guarantee of a decent paying job to follow college. Another Gulf War and we were in high school or college (I was a month shy of my 21st birthday) when 9-11 happened.

    There's more, but that's what comes off the top of my head instantly. I'm sure that meshes pretty well with the average Millenial even though I and my friends are in that disputed range.

    Posted by A.B-G. April 20, 08 12:11 PM
  1. Josh,

    Sorry for typing fast--however, acting like a jerk by calling me stupid in virtue of my mispelling "millennial" doesn't make your case any better. My fingers are actually shaking at your tone--no one has ever so rudely addressed themself to me across the internet. And the Globe gives you a column?

    I am not as so arrogant to blindly inform someone what they are, I merely outlined my experiences of what I've experienced talking to family and friends. I'm sorry you took offense to it. I didn't realize that you consider yourself the sole authority on this subject and that you think those at Newsweek and Time are all idiots. I actually do have a master's degree and work in higher ed and avidly read so I wouldn't charactize myself as an idiot, thanks.

    You argued that those born in the late 1950s are OGX, yet above you agree that they are. Which is it? You contradict yourself. Maybe you ought to set yourself straight before you go about telling me what I am.

    The reference "growing up with computers or pop culture references" was actually a mistype on my part that I caught after the fact. Sorry again, oh great one for offending you. What I meant to say is that we don't have *the same memories* of computers or pop culture references. So again, my apologies for being human.

    If you don't want honest feedback based upon personal experiences (not just Newsweek or Time) maybe you shouldn't have a comments section. Just my two cents. Before seeing you response I also added some other thoughts, but I don't know that I really care to hear your response if you just want to belittle people who think differently than you based upon their own very valid experiences. You know, you're not the first person to realize that there's a lot of conflicting dates between various sociologists for these dates...

    Posted by A.B-G. April 20, 08 12:24 PM
  1. This is very interesting information on determining labels for folks born during specific time periods - generations. I've not heard it described quite like this and I'm enjoying pondering your perspective. I've not done much research, only a little on this subject.
    I enjoyed reading the perspective of A.B-G also. I, too, was surprised by J.G.'s choice of words and tone of response to A.B-G. Information is useless if not received and responding with disrespect toward another will surely shut down any open paths of communication. Not to mention that treating others disrespectfully only serves to discredit oneself.
    Delivery of information/perspective is equally important. NMO

    Posted by NMO September 14, 08 06:16 PM
  1. Tell you what, I watched things start to change at the time I was old enough to get my drivers licence. Felt like I missed the party somewhat but looking back I know I got a peice of it ;) The 80s were culturally bleak to me but things started looking up about 1988 then the 90s music, and events more to my liking.

    All I know now is I was born in 1963 grew up fast and now my kids call me OLD! lol.

    Posted by OldHeathen November 15, 08 05:36 PM
  1. Joshua, I like your analysis. As a 50 year old I have never felt like a Boomer. I was too young to be a part of counterculture mindset of the 60s and early 70s. I was aware of it but didn't come of age and understand any of it until it had passed and we were already dancing to Donna Summer. I was aware of Generation Jones before reading your post and liked that assessment, but yours makes even more sense. I have often thought that the next generation started around 1954 based on my own observations and my relationships with friends and relatives. Although I have sometimes heard of this referred to as the "late boomer" generation. The term "Original Gen. X " would not sit well with most people in my age bracket either as we have long identified Gen Xers with the PC Generation. Perhaps finding another word for it that doesn't involve either "boomer" or "Gen. X" would sit better with us.

    I am not sure how to comment on your generations before the Boomers as I only know of them through my relationships with them. I am sorry to say that most of my family and friends of those generations have passed on. I like the term "greatest generation" because let's face it, they were great people. I will have to ask my father (born 1927) what he thinks of your analysis. He was too young to serve in WWII but served in the Army between wars, being part of the peace time troops abroad in France in the post war period.

    Thanks for bringing Obama's generation into it. Yes, I feel that he is a voice of my unique generation. I will have to read the link you provided to find out more about that.

    As far as the generations arbitrarily lasting 20 years - I think the length of each one should be individual depending on the culture. Our society is perhaps changing at an even faster rate today than in earlier generations. I personally can't believe that anyone would expect them to last 20 years. I never felt that I was a full Boomer by the way that Boomers and their values have been typified in the media. I am happy that more people are realizing this and proposing their own assessments.

    Posted by Renee January 26, 09 11:18 AM
  1. The problem with any cut off dates is that there are cultural markers intersecting any time span and people at the border of any two groups will share much in common with someone in the neighboring group--perhaps more than with people on the other end of the group they've been put in.

    Under the old labels I was on the cusp of the Baby Boom and whatever came after. Your system puts me on the cusp of OGX and the PC people.

    I feel different from people born in the late 50s because they had a different way of discovering the Beatles than did a few years later. And I feel a lot in common with people born at the beginning of the generation your label ages me out of.

    It's a bell curve thing, I guess.

    Posted by Belinda April 2, 09 12:39 PM
  1. Ok I was born in October 76,where do I belong Gen X or Gen Y, way back in 93 a college professor (father of a best friend back then) told me that I was Gen Y because Gen X "ended" in June 76 and has I was born in October 76 I was Gen Y case closed,well not many years after people (media/friends) tell me that no sr you're late Gen X,how can that be I have an older brother (born in June 64) and when it comes to music/movies/fahion/cars etc we have very liitle or notting in common.How can I be an X'er when I have little to nothing in common with a true X'er?

    Posted by Michael August 11, 09 12:06 AM
 
About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
contributors
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

archives

Browse this blog

by category