Understanding Generation X: Birth Years, Traits, and Cultural Influences
Generation X is the demographics of people born between 1965 and 1980, according to the Pew research center. Gen X people fall between the age range of 43 to 58 years old.
The experts have broken down the generational timeline in America based on the birth year. There are seven living generations today namely:
- The Greatest Generation
- The Silent Generation
- Baby Boomers
- Generation X
- Generation Z
- Gen Alpha
Now more than ever, there seem to be generation labels thrown in every aspect, including cultural, economic, and characteristical aspects. Deciphering the exact timeline of each generation is not an easy task. Many sites provide different age ranges and birth years to determine the generation, but the sets can vary.
Generation X came right after the Baby Boomer generation and was followed by the Millenials. Gen X is also termed the forgotten middle child as they are outnumbered by the size and influence of Baby Boomers and Millennials.
Generation X is often called the latchkey generation because they were raised by working parents. They were often on their own, alone at home after school. A latchkey kid is unsupervised and forced to care for themselves even in difficult situations. Therefore, Gen X people are good at self-care.
This generation is shaped by many historical events that makes them unique from other generations. Some of them are:
- Generation X was born when deep tension existed between the US and the Soviet Union. They witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
- The use of personal computers at home for youths started in their era.
- They grew up with a sense of equality and diversity as they were born after the civil rights movement.
- The humans landing on the moon for the first time happened during their generation in 1969.
- They witnessed the escalation and end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the Cold War in 1991.
Characteristics of Generation X
With all the unique and influential historical events that occurred during their growth years, Generation X people have some typical characteristics. Some of them are discussed below:
1. Independent and Self-Reliant
As already mentioned, many Gen X individuals grew up as latchkey kids. The number of working mothers and the divorce rate were highest during that time. This basically means they were most of the time all alone after school and had to solve all their problems by themselves without expert guidance.
Terms like helicopter parenting, snowplow parenting, Lawnmower parenting, and Bulldozer parenting were not valid during their time. They dealt with the obstacles and problems in their life themselves, which created a can-do attitude in them.
Whether it is about fixing anything broken at home or facing new challenges at the workplace, you can rely on Gen X because they have this independence built in them from childhood.
The Gen X age ranges from forties to late fifties (43-58 years old). They have seen the rapid development of technologies and infrastructures. They were able to keep themselves occupied and informed even during the time when there was no internet and social media. Starting from the rise of personal computers at home, to using smartphones now, they have adapted to lots of things in life.
They have also lived through many drastic social and economic changes of the world. They can easily adapt to new changes and also act like a bridge that connects two groups with very opposing mindsets.
Even in the workplace, they are open to any new changes. They can learn and adapt to new technologies and programs easily. Gen X is tech-savvy but tech-independent.
Being on your own is not just an advantage for Gen X but a negative aspect of their personality too. As they are filled with self-reliance and self-interest, they grew up to become more distrustful of human integrity.
Being aloof is nothing new for Gen X. They prefer to keep it personal rather than involving a larger community.
Gen X had to pick up the pieces of conflicts from prior generations and rebuild after the boomers rebelled. Hence they are more concerned with the results than pompous fantasies. They were the counter-revolution against the optimism and idealism of the boomers.
Similarly, they also have a cynical attitude over the new generation. They find it hard to digest why millennials don't realize that the world isn't that simple.
GenXers thinks critically about the world around them and one of the reason may be they faced the Watergate scandal and divisive Vietnamese War. The lost faith in the government and political leaders.
A stereotype created these days on memes called "Karen" is the new Okay Boomer for Generation X, reports Buzzfeed. Hard to admit, most of the "Karens" are constantly asking to see the manager, don't believe in climate change, generally the parents of Gen Z kids, and CYNICAL.
But of course, only some of the Gen X are Karens. However, the cynical part is pretty common for most of the people of this generation.
Gen X are often underestimated and labeled with monikers such as the Lost generation, Forgotten middle child, and Slacker generation. This is because there are around 70 million baby boomers and around 72 million millennials, while only 65 million Gen X.
In terms of percentage, out of all the seven living generations, there are only around 19.6% Generation X.
Being the less number of individuals between two large generations of people, Gen X is overlooked. But they are the ones with most influence over other generations, the connecting line between the major generations Boomers and Millenials.
5. Work-Life Balance
Another most important characteristic that describes Gen X is their ability to maintain a work-life balance.
They are less committed to their employers unlike their baby boomer parents as they have coped through the difficult economy during the 1980s. Gen X also have an entrepreneurial spirit and a "I can do it myself" attitude.
Gen X divide certain hours for work and definite time for their personal life and individual aspirations. The Ladders report, GenXer tends to take 31% time off work (around 10 days per year). On the other hand, Millenials take only 21% time off. They work to live their life not the other way around.
They also have financial pressure to take care of their aging parents and adult children at home. So, extracting time for personal life and becoming financially dependent is the trait that defines GenXers.
Impact of Generation X
Generation X mapped the youth culture in motion. Gen Xers laid the intellectual, social, political, creative and personal ground for the Millenials to walk and communicate today, says professor Christine Henseler.
Although depicted as the ignored generations, GenXers have made significant impacts on our culture and shaped the world.
The "Sandwich Generation"
The demographic of people born between 1965 to 1981 are aged around 43 to 58 years old. They are often called sandwich generation as they fall between the louder generation Baby Boomers and the flashier generation Millenials.
Being sandwiched between two large generations, GenXers have a major influence on both. They act like a bridge to connect the traditional lifestyle of Boomers and the modern ones of Millenials.
Boomers tend to have their own home and live in traditional nuclear families. While millennials tend to rent a house rather than buy one and generally put off marriage and having kids.
Similarly, Boomers are weak in technology as there were not enough computers and smartphones during their time. Millenials, on the other hand, can't imagine their life without a smartphone, the internet, and social media. Gen X having lived through both times can understand each other quite well and are adept in both scenarios.
Other aspects like parenting styles, finances, retirement, and education also differ vastly between baby boomers and millennials. So, being sandwiched between the two, Gen X can solve many issues and create an understanding.
The Rise Of Alternative Culture
Gen X helped bring out many of the creative awesomeness we love today. They are the ones who started to socialize digitally, made great innovations in technologies, and became the big bosses at several corporate businesses.
They gave rise to the social media and influencer culture as they were the ones who founded the first social media platforms. For eg, Friendster in 2002, MySpace in 2003, and Twitter in 2006 were all founded by Generation X individuals.
The Friendster, created by Gen X, acted as a model for Facebook and was later founded by the millennial Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and other platforms would be impossible to reach if those companies were not founded by Gen X.
Similarly, Google and Amazon were also founded by Gen X. Thanks to their tech-savvy childhood, they engaged in technology a lot and brought several innovations.
According to a report by the State of the Startup, 55% of startup founders are GenXers. Having the entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to dominate the business field, this generation has made really great impact on society by breaking the traditional values and norms.
The Decline Of Traditional Institutions
In traditional institutions, men and women believed that institutions transcend personal needs, wants, egos, and preferences. Gen X tend to leave such company because of their self-reliant, independent and entrepreneurial characteristic.
Now, with Gen X as the leader, they face a crisis of faith in the legitimacy of such institutions. The new institutions are now filled with University-educated individuals having a haughty sense of social responsibility and an unrealistic sense of their own abilities. There is equality among genders in the workforce from Gen X.
Gen X is also dealing with the high-maintenance personal needs and dogmatic social ideals of newer generations. Organizations and institutions are rapidly changing due to Gen X, and the traditional ones are getting forgotten.
Therefore, Gen X is the most influential generation despite being sandwiched between two louder cohorts. With self-reliant formative years, their belief system gravitates towards ideas and policies that promote tolerance, security, and stability.
Being more socially progressive and tolerant, they were the wealthiest generation, even on the brink of poverty. But due to financial pressure for loved ones, excess housing loans, and student debts, they have very few plans for retirement.
In the coming future, Generation X will be in a world where there is extreme inequality in wealth among individuals, new advanced technology revolution, and instable environmental conditions.
But since they are familiar with sudden change and aversion to any insecurity, this generation will be unaffected and can guide the world facing these challenges head-on to make a stabilizing difference for newer generations.
Read about all the generations names in order of birth year in the previous article written by our team.