Generations: Who We Are

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January 7, 2014 by genelup

People of the Greatest Generation (1901-1926), the Baby Boomers (1946-64) and those who are Generation Xers (1965-80) get most of the publicity these days.  And I’m not any of them.

My generation (1927-45) gets shafted.  Experts who determine such things don’t even know exactly what to call us.  One source said we are the Lucky Few, another said we are the Silent Generation and then another said we are the Mature/Silents.

Huh!  What are we lucky about and why are we considered silent?  Well, however, we now are all mature.

For the record, I was born Feb. 20, 1938.  I obviously was too young to fight in World War II and the Korean War, but old enough to go to Vietnam, which I was lucky to avoid.  I served in the Army from 1960-62 when only the Green Berets got sent over there.  I didn’t qualify to wear such a cap.  So, I guess you could call me one of the Lucky Few.

I found four sources describing the six generations in the United States from 1900 to the present.  If I just quoted from one source I would probably be guilty of plagiarizing. But I learned long ago in my newspaper career if I quoted from two or more sources I was doing a great job of research.

Here’s what I found out about my generation.  We are the “first hopeful drumbeats of Civil Rights,” we marry for life as divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted. We are avid readers.  We are the children of the Great Depression which makes us frugal, and we (well, not me) were pre-feminist women who stayed home generally to raise children.  Women in my generation who had jobs were more likely teachers, nurses or secretaries.

In grade school the gravest teacher complaints in my generation were about passing notes and chewing gum in class. However, for Generation Xers (1965-80) the gravest teacher complaints were about drugs.  And today students are more worried about getting shot in school.  We grew up as young children without television, computers and all the digital stuff that’s flooding our minds nowadays.  We even played with cap guns and shot imaginary Indians and Nazis.  Oh, how awful we were.

Here’s what I learned about the other Generations:

Greatest Generation (1901-26) — They went through the Great Depression and fought in World War II.  Those who didn’t fight kept the home front intact during the war.  War ration books and tokens were issued to each American family, dictating how much gasoline, tires, sugar, meat, silk, shoes, nylon and other items any one person could buy.  I remember my mother taking bacon grease to the butcher.  Bacon grease was turned into glycerin in the making of bullets for the war effort. Those who survived the war went on to build and rebuild United States’ industries after the war.

Baby Boomers (1946-64) — In general, these people rejected or redefined traditional values.  They tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before them.  In their teens and college years they were part of the 1960s counterculture, but later became more conservative.  The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that began in the U.S. during the early 1960s and spread around the world.  Baby boomers ushered in free love and societal “non-violent” protests which triggered violence.  They believed “buy it now and use credit.”  Women began working outside the home in record numbers, causing their children being raised in two-income households.  This was the first television generation, and also the first divorce generation where divorce was beginning to be accepted as a tolerable reality.

Generation X (1965-80) – These “latch-key” kids grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or career-driven parents.  Government and big business meant little to them; they wanted to save the neighborhood, not the world.  Most of them remember being in school without computers, and then being introduced to them in middle school or high school.  This generation averages seven career changes in their lifetime; it was not normal to work for a company for life, unlike previous generations. They also were called the MTV generation who were influenced by fashion trends, music and slang terms shown in music videos on MTV.  They are late to marry (often after cohabitation) and quick to divorce creating many single parents. Research showed they may be conversationally shallow because relating consists of shared time watching videos.  They are wary of commitment; all values are relative and they must tolerate all peoples.  Also, some of them are labeled the boomerang generation: they choose to come back home to live with parents after a brief period of living alone.

Generation Y/ Millennium (1981-2000) They are a sharp departure from Generation X.  They are nurtured by omnipresent parents and are optimistic and focused.  They respect authority.  They have to live with the thought that they could be shot at school; they learned early that the world is not a safe place.  They feel enormous academic pressure.  They prefer digital literacy; never known a world without computers.  They get most of their information and most of their socialization from the Internet.  They prefer to work in teams.  With unlimited access to information they tend to be assertive with strong views; they want fast and immediate processing.  They think they are special and expect the world to treat them that way.  They do not live to work; they prefer a more relaxed work environment with a lot of hand-holding and accolades.

Generation Z/Boomlets (2001-Present) – In 2006 there were a record number of births in the U.S. and 49% of those born were Hispanic.  This will change the American melting pot in terms of behavior and culture.  The number of births in 2006 far outnumbered the start of the baby boom generation, and they will easily be a larger generation.  Since the early 1700s the most common last name in the United States was “Smith.”  Not anymore, now it is “Rodriguez.”  Most children age 8 and older have televisions in their own rooms and having their own cell phone is a must.  They have Eco-fatigue: they are actually tired of hearing about the environment and the many ways we have to save it.  They are also called KGOY-kids growing older younger.  In the 1990s, the average age of a child getting a Barbie doll was 10, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old.  As children reach the age of 4 and 5, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as cell and smart phones, Kindles and video games.  They are savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it. They are over saturated with brands.

These are all generalities of our six generations.  Some of our trends and desires creep over into other generations.  However, as whole studying these generations, this gives us a clear picture where we were and what we have become as a nation.




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