Forgotten generation: Who comprises Generation X?


The “OK Boomer” phenomenon has taken the world, in reality and online, by storm. A joint effort of the millennials and Generation Z, this curt but powerful phrase has both offended and befuddled baby boomers. The kids of the ‘80s, ’90s and 2000s cannot help but feel like many baby boomers, especially those in power, do not truly understand the complexities of the world we are inheriting. 

Many baby boomers, who are currently in the age range between 55 and 73 years old, have been generally criticized for being too patronizing and conservative-thinking for the world we live in today. 

Much of the “anti-Boomer sentiment” stems from the post-World War II generation’s complacency toward and ignorance of issues that directly affect the future of today’s youth, such as rising financial inequality, political turmoil and climate change, said reporter Taylor Lorenz according to The New York Times.

Interestingly, among Generation Z, millennials and baby boomers comes another generational cohort that many people forget about or clump in with their predecessors or successors: Generation X. Many of our parents fall into the category of Generation X, yet their characteristics aren’t as heavily scrutinized as those of the baby boomers.

Different generations can be broadly categorized and defined by their birth periods, which span approximately 15 to 20 years, according to the American think tank, Pew Research Center. Baby boomers were born from the years 1946 to 1964, Generation Xers from 1965 to 1980, millennials from 1981 to 1996 and Generation Zers from 1997 to 2012. 

The Pew Research Center also explored the social dynamics of the relatively small-in-numbers generation wedged between the populous baby boomers and millennials, according to an article titled “Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child’.” It found that the people of the “baby bust” generation, who are called for their low birth rates, don’t identify with their distinctive generational label the way baby boomers and millennials do.

To understand Generation X, we need to step into the shoes of today’s 39 to 54 year olds. Growing up, they were called the “latchkey generation” as they were often left unsupervised after school and thus given greater independence by being home alone. Their domestic lives were characterized by dual-income, nuclear families with divorce rates on the rise among the baby boomers.

Some defining cultural moments in Generation X’s upbringing included the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991. Generation Xers, at midlife and in the workforce, had to bear the full brunt of the economic crisis in 2008. They are often pessimistic about their financial security and future, due to the experiences they had to endure during the recession that shook the world more than a decade ago. 

In the context of American pop culture, Generation X became known as the “MTV Generation,” as MTV was first launched as Generation Xers approached adulthood in 1981. They were the kind of aspiring young adults portrayed in the iconic teen films of American director John Hughes, such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986). 

In terms of technological advancement, Generation X isn’t as invested in the digital world as millennials or Generation Z, but their lives are still greatly informed by and dependent on technology. In fact, the first Apple Macintosh computer was first sold in 1984 and marked a new era of rapid progress in the development of personal computers.

While the young adults of Generation X were considered as a group of slackers after the 1987 stock market crash, many of the most celebrated names in the arts, politics, business, science and sports today are among Generation X. Famous Generation Xers include CEOs like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Julia Roberts, singers like Beyoncé and Britney Spears and star athletes like tennis players Venus Williams and Serena Williams. 

While Generation Xers tend to either lean toward the largely progressive beliefs of some millennials or the largely conservative beliefs of some baby boomers, their collective identity is completely independent of those of their “before” and “after.” 

Generation X is a silently significant presence that is just as important as today’s youth when it comes to being responsible for catalyzing positive social change and making the world a better place.


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