Boomers to Gen Z: Explaining the Generations
Every generation comes with its fundamental differences and distinct characteristics based on the historical, technological, social and economic landscapes they grow up and live in. So, while generations can be confusing, we're here to break down what the different generations are and address common questions.
The Greatest Generation (born 1901–1927)
This generation's name was in tribute to the Americans born during economic success and technological advancement but came of age during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II. Taking their name from Tom Brokaw's book The Greatest Generation, this cohort was dubbed society's “greatest generation” because of the circumstances they had to overcome. Because of their sacrifices, it has been said that this generation became resilient to adversity and had the drive to build a better world because of it.
The Silent Generation (born 1928–1945)
Dubbed the silent generation in a 1951 Time article, those in this age group watched the previous generation make great sacrifices for them by fighting in the war and enduring the Great Depression. Because of these stressors, this generation has been described as unimaginative, withdrawn and cautious. However, many had to be cautious in the wake of the McCarthyism movement, which made it dangerous for some to speak freely. This generation's "silent" behavior has been attributed to the difficult times they were born in and the desire to work within the system rather than change it due to the uncertainty of post-war society.
Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964)
The baby boomers got their name from the baby boom phenomenon that occurred after World War II ended. The spike in birth rates led this generational cohort to reign as the largest group in the United States until very recently. With the economy and war finally subsiding, soldiers and veterans returned home with hopes of providing a better future for their children. With the help of the GI Bill, many of them could pursue education and affordable homes that bloomed in the suburbs. As they aged, this group experienced the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War and The Space Race.
Generation X (born 1965–1980)
Members of Generation X, also referred to as the “forgotten” generation or the “middle child” generation due to their relatively unremarkable history, grew up during an economically stable time. There were more dual-income families, single-parent households and children of divorce than existed in the formative years of previous generations, leaving many of them to grow up as latchkey kids. This led many of Generation X to value independence, informality and work-life balance.
Millennials (born 1981–1996)
Beating out the baby boomers as the largest living adult population are the millennials. This generational cohort was named for being born at the very end of the last millennium and is the largest in history. This generation grew up during the technological revolution, witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks and, when they reached adulthood, suffered economically from the Great Recession in 2008 and another recession a decade later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of these events, millennials may tend to highly value financial security and be more averse to taking risks.
Generation Z (born 1997–2010)
Moving into the 21st century, we have the first generational cohort that had babies born in the 2000s. Most members of this cohort don't remember a time when the internet and cellphones didn't exist. Generation Z (aka Gen Z or iGen) was raised with social media and internet access and pioneered new avenues to digest media, leading to them being stereotyped as tech-addicted or anti-social. Gen Z was previously set up to inherit a strong economy with record-low unemployment, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z now peers into an uncertain future.
Generation Alpha (born 2011–2025)
The newest generation being born today is Generation Alpha. This group never knew the world before the technological boom — they're growing up with iPads and smartphones at the tips of their fingers. They have been completely immersed in a technological world since birth, and because of that, they tend not to see technology as a tool, but rather as a profoundly integrated part of their life. Since the oldest of this generation are about 9 years old in 2021, only time will tell how this will affect society in the future.
Are you looking to defy the odds and take a step out of your generational comfort zone? Take a page out of Gen Z and Generation Alpha’s book and learn how you can use social media to stay healthier!
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