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  Just Below the Baby BoomCCc: Generations X Potpourri

Canadian FundRaiserGeneration XMY NICHOLS’ WORTH by Judith Nichols

At the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2005, Generation Xers — the generation that grew up with My Little Pony, Hot Wheels and Madonna — began turning 40.

Gen X is widely accepted in the USA to be those 41 million people born 1965 through 1976, a period of only 12 years compared with 19 years for the Baby Boom (1946 through 1964). At the time of the 2000 census they were 24 to 34 years old and their numbers had swelled to 49 million. So at least 1 person in every 7 in this generation is an immigrant.

The generation that followed the post-World War II fertility boom that ended in 1965 is about to cross a threshold that doesn’t jibe with the slacker stereotype that the mention of Gen-X still brings to mind for many marketers.  Skeptical of boomer idealism, they were represented by darker icons such as suicidal rocker Kurt Cobain, who declared bleakly: “Here we are now, entertain us. / I feel stupid, and contagious.”

Generational cohorts are the people we are born with, travel through our lives with, and experience similar events with especially those events at the critical late adolescent and early adulthood years. At the heart of the cohort concept is the idea that events that are happening when we are coming of age imprint core values. These “defining moments” can include such things as wars, political dislocations, assassinations, or economic upheavals. They can also be major technological changes and in the area of communication. Events that take place when we first become “economic adults” affect our life-long attitudes toward jobs, money, spending and saving. Events going on when we become sexually mature and sexually active influence our log-term core values about permissiveness, tolerance, and sexual behavior. Significantly, each cohort tends to value most that which it lacked when coming of age. Defining Markets, Defining Moments: America’s 7 Generational Cohorts, Their Shared Experiences, and Why Businesses Should Care, Geoffrey E. Meredith and Charles D.Schewe, Hungry Minds NYC 2002.

"Gen Xers are nothing like what people thought they were. The perception was that they were lazy slackers who wanted everything handed to them on a silver platter," says Beverly J. Moore, managing director of retail markets at New York Life Investment Management, based in Parsippany, N.J., which completed a study of the Gen X market in late 2005. "In fact, they’re serious and relatively conservative. They’re not gunslingers. Their wealth has not come from dotcom companies, and they are making more money earlier in their lives than Baby Boomers did," she adds.

So who and what is Generation X? Whether they are from USA, Canada, Europe, or Asia, Gen Xers tend to marry later, have fewer children, and have doubts about their future. In Japan, for example, a pervasive pessimism about the future is believed to have contributed to young Japanese postponing marriage and children. The average marrying age for men is nearly 30 and for women nearly 28.As a result, Japan’s current population of 128 million is expected to fall to 100 million by 2050 and to 64 million by 2100. “Japan’s Population Fell This Year, Sooner Than Expected”, Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times, December 24, 2005.

In the USA, Only 56 percent of households age 30 to 39 are married couples compared wit 60 percent a decade ago. But when they do get married, the vast majority have children (80%) and then both go to work, providing a household income of $78,000 a year. American Demographics magazine, May 2004.

Over the next 10 years, most of American Gen Xers will cross over into their 40s, historically individuals’ money-making year. The 45-to-54 age demographic, on average over the past 30 years, earned 60 percent more than any other age group. While that figure is eye-opening, the 35-to-44 cohort, which is quickly filling with Gen Xers, ranks a close second, taking home only an average of 10 percent less than 45-to 54-year olds.

The predictable sequence of education, stable employment, marriage and parenthood that marked earlier cohorts of young adults gave way to an increasing diversity of life paths for Generation Xers. For these young adults the options were broader – and the outcomes less certain – than those available to their parents.

Many Gen Xers both resent and admire their parents’ generations. They wonder what will be left for them, especially as the cost of living rises, national debt increases, and as the huge population of aging boomers begins to devour Social Security and company pensions.
Boomers were at the forefront of the women’s and civil rights movements. They questioned authority, and produced art and music about their protests. It’s a legacy that can be difficult to live up to – and one that has left some unwilling to try. Gen Xers grew up in the final chill of the Cold War, witnessed the start of the AIDS epidemic and were told to “just say no” to drugs, according to “Young Adults Admire Boomers – Sometimes”, Martha Irvine, The Associated Press December 11, 2005

Now some Gen Xers are embracing a more conservative political agenda as a direct reaction to the boomers’ more raucous youthful legacy. “We’ve had a large undermining of our traditional values in this country. And I think that was a repercussion of the hippies in the ’60s and their ‘anything goes’ attitude,” says Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican who, at age 30, is the youngest member of Congress. “Our generation has a realistic approach. We’re not sort of pie-in-the-sky people.”

With an unparalleled spectrum of personal choices and no "wisdom from on high", many Gen Xers are trying to create their own type of support system. Rather than settle down into traditional families, many adults in their late twenties, and early thirties are forming Urban Tribes -intricate communities of young people who live and work together in various combinations, form regular rituals, and provide the same kind of support as an extended family. Urban Tribes: A generation redefines friendship, family, and commitment, Ethan Watters, Bloomsbury 2003

They’re self-reliant and impatient, experts agree. They are the first generation that doesn’t believe life will be better for them than their parents. Following the much-heralded boom, the media convinced us that busters could do nothing right. They were the throwaway children of divorce and poverty, the latchkey kids who grew up at ease with technology. Gen Xers weren’t neither trusted nor appreciated as youth and carry the scars into adulthood. They are the most conservative-leaning youths of the 20th century. Generation Xers will need convincing proof that your organization is reliable and will simplify rather than complicate their lives.
When thousands of their parents were laid off in the early 1990s, Gen X decided company loyalty was a sucker act. Achieving goals is the key, so why should rules matter? Dot-com dollars and digital prowess made job-hopping and success a snap, though nowadays, job security and benefits seem sort of attractive.

Their history suggests that Gen Xers will make donor loyalty a thing of the past. They will challenge charities to be relevant and to demonstrate results.


Between 1960 and 2000, the number of unmarried couples in the United States increased by more than 1,000%. By 2010, married couples with children are projected to account for 20% of total households compared with 50% in 1960. The median age at first marriage is 25 for women and 27 for men, the oldest such ages in U.S. history. “Marriage a troubled institution, studies show”, Bill Graves, The Oregonian, February 29, 2004.

U.S. men now marry for the first time at a median age of 27, up from 22 in 1960; women at 25, up from 20 in 1960. American Demographics, November 2003.

Gen Xers are embracing family life with a vigor not seen in baby boomers. Generation X includes more stay-at-home dads, fathers working from home and dads cutting back long hours than previous generations, analysts say. Gen X moms are distinguishing themselves from baby boomers by embracing traditional roles. Although they’re more college-educated than any previous generation, more Generation X moms than boomers are staying home or working part time. Gen Xers are raising more than half of all children under 18 in the United States, some 40 million kids. “Gen X turns out some grade A parents”, Laura DeMarco, The Oregonian, September 12, 2004.

While the U.S. median age continues to rise, from 35.3 years in 2000, the median age of Hispanics remains the lowest of all groups. Demographers predict faster growth among young Hispanics than among other young ethnic groups for the next decade.


With both attitudes and actions, Generation Xers demonstrate that their families take extreme priority. Their staunch commitment to family and family time is striking. Instead of trying to fit family into their work life, Gen X parents are more likely to fit work into their family life. Growing up in an era that saw the simultaneous rise of two-income families and divorce rates, this is a generation that is rethinking how to raise their own families.

Boomers defined ‘having it all’ as not only having a career and a family but also literally having a lot of stuff. But Gen Xers in large numbers are forgoing a dual-income lifestyle to have one parent home with children —meaning they are spending their time and money much differently than the previous generation. Do Gen Xers Balance Work and Life Differently? Fortune Magazine, 27 August 2004

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