Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom. Demographers, historians and commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.
The term "Generation X" was coined by the Magnum photographer Robert Capa in the early 1950s. He used it later as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the Second World War. The project first appeared in "Picture Post" (UK) and "Holiday" (US) in 1953. Describing his intention, Capa said "We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realised that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with." 1 The term was used for various subcultures or countercultures after the 1950s.
The name was popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles. 2While Coupland's book helped to popularize the phrase "Generation X," in a 1989 magazine article 3 he erroneously attributed the term to English rock musician Billy Idol.45 In fact, Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976–1981, which was named after Deverson and Hamblett's 1965 sociology book Generation X6—a copy of which was owned by Mr. Idol's mother.7
In a 2012 article for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, George Masnick wrote that the "Census counted 82.1 million" Gen Xers in the U.S. The Harvard Center uses 1965 to 1984 to define Gen X so that Boomers, Xers and Millennials "cover equal 20-year age spans".14 Masnick concluded that immigration has filled in any birth year deficits during low fertility years of the late 1960s and early 1970s 1415
Jon Miller at the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan wrote that "Generation X refers to adults born between 1961 and 1981" and it "includes 84 million people" in the U.S.1516
The 2011 publication "The Generation X Report", based on annual surveys used in the Longitudinal Study of today's adults, finds that Gen Xers, who are defined in the report as people born between 1961 and 1981, are highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented. The study dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970 and 80s.17 Various questions and responses from approximately 4,000 people who were surveyed each year from 1987 through 2010 made up the study.18
In 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Generation X volunteer rates in the U.S. at "29.4% per year", the highest compared with other generations. The rankings were based on a three-year moving average between 2009 and 2011.1920
In the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, a collection of global essays, Professor Christine Henseler summarizes it as "a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all."21
In American cinema, directors Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh,22 Kevin Smith,23 Richard Linklater24 and Todd Solondz25 have been called Generation X filmmakers. Smith is most known for his View Askewniverse films, the flagship film being Clerks, which focused on a pair of bored, twenty-something convenience store clerks in New Jersey circa 1994. Linklater's Slacker similarly explored young adult characters who were more interested in philosophizing than settling with a long-term career and family. Solondz' Welcome to the Dollhouse touched on themes of school bullying, school violence, teen drug use, peer pressure and broken or dysfunctional families, set in a junior high school environment in New Jersey during the early to mid-1990s.26
Gen Xers were often called the MTV Generation.27 They experienced the emergence of music videos, new wave music, electronic music, synthpop, glam rock, heavy metal and the spin-off glam metal, punk rock and the spin-off pop punk, alternative rock, grunge,28 and hip hop.29
Compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more apparently heterogeneous generation, openly acknowledging and embracing social diversity in terms of such characteristics as race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.27
Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen X'ers are less likely to idolize leaders and are more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions.30
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Generation X statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at current age groups: U.S. Census Bureau, in their 2009 Statistical Abstract.
Pursuant to a study by Elwood Carlson on "how different generations respond in unique ways to common problems in some political, social, and consumption choices", the Population Reference Bureau, a private demographic research organization based in Washington, D.C., cited Generation X birth years as falling between 1965-1982.31 On the first page of the study, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe's definition of a "cohort generation" is cited.31 They define Generation X by the years 1961 to 1981.32
Studies done by Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute challenged the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it.353637
A report titled Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well? focused on the income of males 30–39 in 2004 (those born April, 1964 – March, 1974). The study was released on May 25, 2007 and emphasized that this generation's men made less (by 12%) than their fathers had at that same age in 1974, thus reversing a historical trend. It concluded that per year increases in household income generated by fathers/sons have slowed (from an average of 0.9% to 0.3%), barely keeping pace with inflation. "Family incomes have risen though (over the period 1947 to 2005) because more women have gone to work, supporting the incomes of men, by adding a second earner to the family. And as with male income, the trend is downward".3538
Generation Flux is a neologism and psychographic (not demographic) designation coined by Fast Company for American employees who need to make several changes in career throughout their working lives because of the chaotic nature of the job market following the Financial crisis of 2007-08. Societal change has been accelerated by the use of social media, smartphones, mobile computing, and other new technologies.39 Those in "Generation Flux" have birth years in the ranges of both Generation X and Generation Y.
According to authors Michael Hais and Morley Winograd, "small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit that Gen Xers embody have become one of the most popular institutions in America. There's been a recent shift in consumer behavior and Gen Xers will join the “idealist generation” in encouraging the celebration of individual effort and business risk-taking. As a result, Xers will spark a renaissance of entrepreneurship in economic life, even as overall confidence in economic institutions declines. Customers, and their needs and wants (including Millennials) will become the North Star for an entire new generation of entrepreneurs".40
London newspaper The Guardian cited Generation X birth years as falling between 1965 and 1982. They wrote that they were "labelled by some" as the "'me generation' of the Eighties."41 The Telegraph cited Generation X birth dates as falling into a longer time span (1965–1985),42 whilst the The Independent estimated an earlier range of birth dates (1963–1978) compared to other writers or researchers.43 A BBC News article about a lack of "mid-career volunteers" in their 20s provided a Generation X age range, which, in 2007, would suggest birth years that fall between 1962 and 1982.44
One author, and professor at the University of Toronto, David Foot, divides the generation born after the baby boomers into two groups in his book Boom Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift:45 Generation X, born between 1960 and 1966; and the "Bust Generation", born between 1967 and 1979.46 In his opinion, those born between the periods of 1947–1966 were the Baby Boomers, where in Canada they were the largest boom of the industrialized world (relative to population).47 This large boom complicated the job market for the upcoming generation, Generation X.48 It is also common in Canada to represent Gen Xers using the date ranges 1961–1981.49
In Australia, there is debate over generational birth dates. A Sydney Morning Herald article defined Generation X as "those born roughly between 1963–1980."50 The Australian Bureau of Statistics, use a 1965-1981 birth range to define Generation X.51525354
Sources in New Zealand, including the country's labour statistics, define Gen X between the years 1965 and 1981.5556 However, the University of Adelaide's Centre for Learning and Professional Development gave a slightly different range of Generation X birthdates, ranging between 1965 and 1982.57
The shorter birth year definitions are shorthand for fertility rates. Gen Xers (as a cultural generation) look beyond demographics to define themselves by a shared location in history, common beliefs, attitudes and values (and a common perceived membership). Defining Gen X purely by demographic bulges and busts (like the Census) misses key cultural indicators that a very different set of young people has come along. Commentators who set Millennial birth boundaries starting in the late-70s often make the same assumptions using fertility rates to define birth dates rather than shared beliefs, attitudes and values. Children born in the early 1960s and after had a very different coming of age experience than those born in the late 1950s. Some of the most influential cultural definers of Gen X were born during the period between 1961 and 1964.58
- GenXegesis: essays on alternative youth (sub)culture By John McAllister Ulrich, Andrea L. Harris p. 5.
- Ulrich, John. "Introduction: A (Sub)cultural Genealogy". In Andrea L. Harris. GenXegesis: essays on alternative youth. p. 3.
- Coupland, Doug. "Generation X." Vista, 1989.
- Idol, Billy. "Eyes Without a Face". Retrieved 23 March 2013.
- Idol, Billy. "Rebel Yell". Retrieved 23 March 2013.
- Hamblett, Charles, and Jane Deverson. "generation X". Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1964.
- Generation X - A Punk History with Pictures
- Miller, Jon D. "The Generation X Report: Active, Balanced, and Happy: These young Americans are not bowling alone". University of Michigan, Longitudinal Study of American Youth, funded by the National Science Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Jon D., Miller. "Xplaining Gen X - National Science Foundation Sponsored Webcast". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
- Encyclopedia of Identity By Ronald L. Jackson, II
- Strauss, William & Howe, Neil. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. Perennial, 1992 (Reprint). ISBN 0-688-11912-3 p. 318 & p. 324
- Chaudhry, Alexandra (2012-04-30). "Obama's Generation X Factor". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
- Glenn, Joshua (10 January 10, 2008). "The Original Generation X, 1954-63". Boston Globe. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Masnick, George. "Defining the Generations". Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "U.S. Census Age and Sex Composition: 2010". U.S. Census. Issued May 11, 2011. p. 4. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Miller, Jon (Fall 2011). "The Generation X Report: Active, Balanced, and Happy: These Young Americans are not Bowling Alone". Longitudinal Study of American Youth -- University Of Michigan. p. 1. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- Dawson, Alene (2011-10-26). "Study says Generation X is balanced and happy". CNN. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
- "Volunteering and Civic Life in America: Generation X Volunteer Rates". Corporation for National and Community Service. November 27, 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
- "Volunteering in the United States". Bureau of Labor Statistics - U.S. Department of Labor. Feb. 22, 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, Christine Henseler, Ed.; Routledge, August 2012
- Hanson, Peter (2002). The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study of Films and Directors. North Carolina and London: McFarland and Company. ISBN 0-7864-1334-4.
- TIME, Magazine (1998-06-09). "MY GENERATION BELIEVES WE CAN DO ANYTHING". View Askew. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
- Richard Linklater, Slacker, St Martins Griffin, 1992.
- Tasker, Yvonne (October 21, 2010). Fifty Contemporary Film Directors (page 365). Routledge. ISBN 0415554330.
- Russell, Dominique (March 25, 2010). Rape In Art Cinema (page 130: "In this vein, Solondz' films, while set in the present, contain an array of objects and architectural styles that evoke Generation X's childhood and adolescence. Dawn (Heather Matarazzo) wears her hair tied up in a 1970s ponytail holder with large balls, despite the fact her brother works at a 1990 Macintosh computer, in a film that came out in 1996."). Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 082642967X.
- Isaksen, Judy L. (2002). "Generation X". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture.
- "Out: 10 years after Cobain, can grunge speak to spirit of a generation?". Savannah Now. April 2004. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
- Wilson, Carl (2011-08-04). "My So Called Adulthood". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "20th - Century U.S. Generations".
- Strauss, William; Neil Howe (1991). Generations: The History of Americas Future, 1584 to 2069. New York, NY: Harper Perennial. p. 317. ISBN 0-688-11912-3.
- Gordinier, Jeff (2008). X Saves the World -- How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking. New York, NY: Penguin Group. pp. Cover. ISBN 978-0-670-01858-1.
- Gordinier, Jeff. "Author Jeff Gordinier Discusses X Saves the World". YouTube. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
- Isabel Sawhill, Ph.D; John E. Morton (2007). "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?". Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- Steuerle, Eugene; Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, and Sisi Zhang (2013). "Lost Generations? Wealth Building Amoung Young Americans". Urban Institute. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- Economic Mobility Project
- Ellis, David (2007-05-25). "Making less than dad did". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
- Safian, Robert (January 9, 2012). "This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business". fastcompany.com.
- Morley Winograd; Michael Hais (2012). "Why Generation X is Sparking a Renaissance in Entrepreneurship". Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Ashthana, Anushka (2008-05-25). "They don't live for work ... they work to live". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-07-21.
- Devlin, Kate (2007-12-24). "Generation X 'having less sex'". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2011-07-21.
- A (2007-02-18). "Generation X: The slackers who changed the world". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2011-07-21.
- A (2007-01-19). "Teaching 'Generation X' a lesson". BBC News. Retrieved 2011-07-23.
- Foot, David (1996). Boom, Bust & Echo. Macfarlane Walter & Ross. pp. 18–22. ISBN 0-921912-97-8.
- Trenton, Thomas Norman (1997-Fall). "Generation X and Political Correctness: Ideological and Religious Transformation Among Students". Canadian Journal of Sociology 22 (4): 417–36. Retrieved 2011-06-03. "In Boom, Bust & Echo, Foot (1996: 18–22) divides youth into two groups: 'Generation X' born between 1960 and 1966 and the 'Bust Generation' born between 1967 and 1979."
- Foot, David. Boom, Bust & Echo.Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1996. ISBN 0-921912-97-8. p.19
- CBC News http://archives.cbc.ca/society/youth/topics/1209-6689/
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- Deloitte & Touche LLP, Tourism Industry Association of Canada (2009). "Destination Canada: Are We Doing Enough?". Deloitte Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure Industry and Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC): 1–16. Retrieved 2011-03-28. "67% are members of Generations X (1961–81) and Y (1982–2001), or the 'contemporary generations'"
- Holroyd, Jane (2011-07-20). "Talkin' 'bout my label". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
- McCrindle, Mark (2005-07-18). "Superannuation and the Under 40’s: Summary Report: Research Report on the Attitudes and Views of Generations X and Y on Superannuation.". McCrindle Research. "Generation X 1965–1981...Generation X comprises those aged between 24 and 40...Generation Y 1982–2000..."
- Kershaw, Pam (2005). "Managing Generation X and Y". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2011-03-31. "Generation X: born 1965–1981...Generation Y: born 1982 onwards."
- Shoebridge, Neil (2006-10-11). "Generation Y: Catch Them If You Can.". Australian Financial Review (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2011-03-31. "The definitions of generation Y vary...others plumping for 1982 to 1995."
- "Generation X and Y: Who They Are and What They Want". Board Matters Newsletter 8 (3). 2008-11. Retrieved 2011-03-31. "Generation Y 1965–1981"
- Eames, David (2008-03-06). "Jumping the Generation Gap". The New Zealand Herald (APN New Zealand Ltd). Retrieved 2011-03-31. "Generation X (1965–1981) Cynical, pessimistic, individualist, no employer loyalty, self-sufficient, sceptical."
- Pitt, Dr. Colin (2011-03). "Tuning in to the Next Generation of Leaders". inFinance 125 (1): 1. "Generation X: 1965–1981"
- "Centre for Learning and Professional Development". University of Adelaide: 1. 2011-Autumn. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
- Howe, Neil (1991). Generations. New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 58–68. ISBN 0-688-11912-3.
- Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, Christine Henseler, Ed.; 2012