NICHOLS’ WORTH by
JUST BELOW THE BABY BOOMCCc: GENERATIONS X
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
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
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
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.
THE BOTTOM LINE
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