Generations are important to family members but also play an essential role in social change. Discover how long a generation lasts and how they are formed.
Sociologists typically classify a generation as the period between when one cohort was born and when that cohort produced their first child. This definition can be challenging because life expectancies are increasing, and many people are putting off having children.
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Generational trends can help marketers unlock similar attitudes and behaviors among consumers with similar life experiences. How generations are labeled, however, can be confusing. Many people think age is crucial when dividing generational cohorts, which is often true. But it is important to remember that, when referring to generations, age refers to birth year, not current age.
Generally speaking, younger boomers tend to trail Gen X and Millennials in native technology usage, though this trend is changing. Regarding media consumption, baby boomers still favor traditional channels like television, radio, and newspapers but increasingly use social media to stay in touch with family and friends. Nearly all boomers have a Facebook account.
As a group, baby boomers are in their peak earning years.
But concerns are looming on the horizon for boomers. Two-thirds say it is harder for middle-class Americans to maintain their living standard than ten years ago. In addition, they are less likely than other age groups to say their quality of life exceeds that of their parents when their parents were the same age as they are now.
Gen X is the group of Americans born between 1965 and 1980, following the Baby Boomers and preceding the Millennials. They are also known as the “middle child generation,” the “baby bust generation,” and the MTV Generation, referring to the cable TV network that began broadcasting music videos in 1981.
They experienced a different world than the Boomers, with more dual-income households and higher divorce rates. They saw technological advances with the introduction of MTV and the computer and the AIDS epidemic that caused a new sense of urgency for safe sex. They are considered the latchkey generation, spending much of their childhoods alone while their parents worked.
Generation X workers often bring a variety of strengths to the workplace. They are adaptable, with a natural use of technology and versatile communication skills. Their ability to adjust quickly to shifting responsibilities makes them a great team addition.
However, the length of a generation can be subjective, depending on how many members there are and what events they experience. Some researchers and commentators disagree about the exact age range of a generation. Some say a generation is defined by the age at which it begins; others believe that social generations are better viewed as tools for understanding how people change over time.
In sociological contexts, a generation is a group of people born and living simultaneously. The length of a social generation depends on the average age at which family members start having children. However, longer life expectancies mean a generation may last up to 20 years. Defining a social generation is complex; scholars often have differing views on how long is a generation today lasts.
Millennials are the demographic cohort following Generation X. They are often characterized as confident, self-expressive, and liberal. They also need to be more traditional in their views of family structures. For example, they are more likely to support gay and equal marriage rights. They are also more likely to be single than other generations.
Sociologists use Millennials to refer to people born between 1977 and 1995. While the starting year for this group is not clearly defined, most scholars agree that 1996 is a good cutoff point. This is because it reflects essential historical events that impacted the Millennial generation during their formative years.
As a result of these events, Millennials tend to have different priorities when making purchases. For example, they place a greater emphasis on quality and brand reputation when selecting products. They are also more likely to prefer socially responsible companies. In addition, the Millennials are known to be very tech-savvy and highly connected to their peers via the internet.
Gen Zers, the young adults who follow Millennials in the workforce, have earned a bad rap. But as this generation gains economic power, they’re challenging traditional workplace norms and setting new standards for how work gets done. They’re also making headlines in the booming cannabis industry, driving sales and transforming consumers’ thoughts about marijuana and other legal drugs.
As a group, Gen Zers are more diverse than any other in history. They’re more likely to be religious and ethnically diverse than Millennials, and they’ve grown up with increased social media connectivity. Their worldview is also more global and less materialistic, and they tend to be more liberal than their older counterparts.
Because they’ve been exposed to so much change in their lifetimes, Gen Zers are very open to innovation. They’ve grown up with voice assistants and augmented reality and are comfortable using technology daily. They’re less attached to privacy than other generations and more willing to accept that technology can make people vulnerable.
It’s important to remember that age is just one factor determining how someone sees the world and what issues matter most to them. Moreover, it’s essential to recognize that generations should be viewed as tools for understanding trends, not strict categories of who we are.