Defining The Generations: What Makes Each Unique

The war between the generations never ends and each group seems to think they have all the answers.

We have often heard about generations X, Y, and Z. Are they really different? It’s easy to see why there is so much confusion about generational cohorts. Demographers grouped people based on their birth years to examine economic trends and social changes over time.

In March 2019, a Zambian Twitter user went viral for his thread explaining why people born between 1985 and 1995 are “the most unique generation of all time”. Today, we are going to have a look at six generations in the 21st century and what sets them apart from the other generations.

1. The Greatest Generation (or GI Generation)

Fig: Greatest Generation

They are born in 1924 or earlier. The term “the Greatest Generation” is thought to have been coined by a news anchor named Tom Brokaw. The term is a tribute to Americans who lived through the Great Depression and then fought in World War II and helped to win it. His 1998 bestselling book, “The Greatest Generation,” popularized the term. The youngest members of the Greatest Generation, if using 1925 as the last year they were born, would be in their 100s as of the year 2020. They had to face dire hardships due to the Great Depression and World War. They had to work really hard and had to make huge sacrifices. They are believed to have a very strong work ethic.

Well, do you know about the Great Depression? Click here to learn more!

Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, Walt Disney, Queen Elizabeth 2, Indira Gandhi belong to the Greatest generation.

This generation grew up during a time when the world was experiencing great shifts in power. The changes this generation witnessed will forever be marked as some of the most pivotal moments in history.

2. The Silent Generation

Fig: Silent Generation

They were born between 1925 and 1945. They are so-called because they were raised during a period of war and economic depression. They started out as the children of crisis. The label reflected the counterculture of a rebellious generation, who were keen to find their voice. Their characteristics include discipline, upholding values, gratitude, and an appreciation for the “simplicities” in life. This senior population is best characterized by a strong sense of determination and willpower.

The silent generation brought a strong work ethic of their parents into the factories. They grew up during tough times. They considered work a privilege and that is clearly seen as they were a very wealthy generation. The Silent Generation helped shape 20th-century pop culture, with pioneering rock musicians, iconic filmmakers, television legends, and political satirists. John Lennon, Anne Frank, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, Audrey Hepburn belong to this generation.

3. Baby Boomers

Fig: Baby Boomers

They were born between 1946 and 1964. The Baby Boomer generation got its name because of the ‘boom’ in births after World War II. They are more downbeat about their lives. According to the Pew Research Centre, they are the gloomiest generation. However, they were classified as the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation compared to all the ones that came before. They’re currently between 56-76 years of age.

This generational cohort consists of people who did not grow up with the internet or any form of mobile technology but did get the first televisions. Their music, most notably rock and roll, was another expression of their generational identity. Transistor radios were personal devices that allowed teenagers to listen to The Beatles, and other new musical directions and artists. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Meryl Streep, Bill Gates are also baby boomers.

4. Generation X

Fig: Generation X

Born between 1965 and 1980, they were dubbed the “MTV Generation” and characterized as slackers and as skeptical and disaffected. The term “Generation X” became synonymous with children of the 60s and the 70s after author Douglas Coupland used it in his novel, “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture” in 1991. They are currently between 41-55 years old. Generation X is the group that started to introduce the idea of a solid work-life balance into the workforce.

Gen Xers watched members of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers turn into workaholics in a workforce that encouraged long hours and a hard grind. This generational category had the highest entrepreneurial boom at the time. This cohort consists of people who grew up when the internet was born, but it wasn’t available to the general public. They were born during a time of shifting societal values. Generation X is independent, ambitious, flexible, and family-centric. Jeff Bezos, Julia Roberts, Celine Dion are some of the famous people of this generation.

5. Generation Y Or The Millennials

Fig. Generation Y

Born between 1981 and 1996, this generation was defined by its liberality in the political arena, certain narcissism in general, and a penchant for neo-music forms like electronic, dubstep and metal. Howe and Strauss introduced the term millennials in 1991, the year their book, “Generations,” was published. This generational category consists of people who grew up when the Internet was becoming available to the general public. This generation is marked by increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.

The Great Recession has had a serious impact on this generation because it has caused historically high levels of unemployment among young people. A majority of generation Y are spenders instead of savers. They are optimistic about their own careers and look forward to networking and teamwork. Even though they were initially labeled lazy and entitled, they have proved themselves to be hardworking, ambitious, and willing to think outside the box to pursue opportunities. Lionel Messi, Taylor Swift, Serena Williams, and Emma Watson are some of the well -known millennials.

6. Generation Z

Fig. Generation Z

Generation Z is born after 1996 and they are considered the future of the global economy. In January 2019, Pew announced that the post-millennial cohort will be called Gen Z. This is the generation that will never know what it was like to be without an internet connection or a cell phone. They are the true digital natives. They believe in diversity, equality, and non-discrimination. This generation is optimistic and very driven about their personal ambitions. Self-actualization is of high priority, as well as a fulfilling job and a good working climate.

This generation grew up with diverse family structures, a more varied mix of ethnic groups, and blurred gender roles. Before they go shopping, they look for inspiration online, on platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. The influence of Gen Z is now radiating outward, with the search for truth at the center of its characteristic behavior and consumption patterns. Greta Thunberg, Kylie Jenner, and Shawn Mendez are some of the popular people of this cohort.

Every generation is unique in its own terms. They have their own stories and their share of contribution to art, culture, and economic development. Which generation do you think stands out? Let us know in the comments section below.


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