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Generation X

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Title: Generation X  
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Subject: Strauss–Howe generational theory, Douglas Coupland, Winona Ryder, Post-90s, Kurt Cobain
Collection: Cultural Generations, Demographics, Postmodernism
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Generation X

Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom. Demographers, historians, and commentators use beginning birth dates ranging from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.


  • Origin 1
  • Characteristics and definition 2
  • Economy 3
    • Entrepreneurship 3.1
  • United Kingdom 4
  • Canada 5
  • Australia and New Zealand 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • Further reading 9


Hungarian photographer Robert Capa initially referred to post-World War II youth as "Generation X"
Douglas Coupland popularized the term "Generation X" in a novel about young adults and their lifestyles in the late 1980s.

The term Generation X was coined by the Magnum photographer Robert Capa in the early 1950s. He used it later as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the Second World War. The project first appeared in Picture Post (UK) and Holiday (US) in 1953. Describing his intention, Capa said "We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realised that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with." [1] The term was used for various subcultures or countercultures after the 1950s.

The name was popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles.[2] While Coupland's book helped to popularize the phrase Generation X in a 1989 magazine article [3] he erroneously attributed it to English rock musician Billy Idol.[4][5] In fact, Billy Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976–1981, which was named after Deverson and Hamblett's 1965 sociology book Generation X[6] – a copy of which was owned by Idol's mother.[7]

Characteristics and definition

Gen X is the generation born after the Western post–World War II baby boom describing a generational change from the Baby Boomers.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

In a 2012 article for the Millennials "cover equal 20-year age spans".[14] Masnick concluded that immigration has filled in any birth year deficits during low fertility years of the late 1960s and early 1970s [14][15]

Jon Miller at the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan wrote that "Generation X refers to adults born between 1961 and 1981" and it "includes 84 million people" in the U.S.[15][16]

The 2011 publication "The Generation X Report", based on annual surveys used in the Longitudinal Study of today's adults, finds that Gen Xers, who are defined in the report as people born between 1961 and 1981, are highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented. The study dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970 and 80s.[17] Various questions and responses from approximately 4,000 people who were surveyed each year from 1987 through 2010 made up the study.[18] Clive Thompson, writing in Wired in 2014 claimed that the differences between Generation X and its predecessors, and followers had been over-hyped, quoting Kali Trzesniewski, a scholar of life-span changes".[19]

In 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Gen X volunteer rates in the U.S. at "29.4% per year", the highest compared with other generations. The rankings were based on a three-year moving average between 2009 and 2011.[20][21]

In the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, a collection of global essays, Professor Christine Henseler summarizes it as "a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all."[22]

In cinema, directors Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Jane Campion, Steven Soderbergh,[23] Kevin Smith,[24] Richard Linklater[25] and Todd Solondz[26] have been called Generation X filmmakers. Smith is most known for his View Askewniverse films, the flagship film being Clerks, which is set in New Jersey circa 1994, and focuses on two bored, convenience-store clerks in their twenties. Linklater's Slacker similarly explores young adult characters who were more interested in philosophizing than settling with a long-term career and family. Solondz' Welcome to the Dollhouse touched on themes of school bullying, school violence, teen drug use, peer pressure and broken or dysfunctional families, set in a junior high school environment in New Jersey during the early to mid-1990s.[27] While not a member of Generation X himself, director John Hughes has been recognized as having created a series of classics "that an entire generation took ownership of with films like The Breakfast Club,[28][29]Sixteen Candles and Weird Science".[30]

Gen Xers are often called the MTV Generation.[31] They experienced the emergence of music videos, new wave music, electronic music, synthpop, glam rock, heavy metal and the spin-off glam metal, punk rock and the spin-off pop punk, alternative rock, grunge,[32] and hip hop.[33]

Compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more apparently heterogeneous generation, openly acknowledging and embracing social diversity in terms of such characteristics as race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.[31]

Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen Xers are less likely to idolize leaders and are more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions.[34]

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Generation X statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at current age groups[35]

Pursuant to a study by Elwood Carlson on "how different generations respond in unique ways to common problems in some political, social, and consumption choices", the

  • Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, Christine Henseler, Ed.; 2012

Further reading

  1. ^ GenXegesis: essays on alternative youth (sub)culture By John McAllister Ulrich, Andrea L. Harris p. 5.
  2. ^ Ulrich, John (2003). "Introduction: A (Sub)cultural Genealogy". In Andrea L. Harris. GenXegesis: essays on alternative youth. p. 3.  
  3. ^ Coupland, Doug. " Generation X." Vista, 1989.
  4. ^ Idol, Billy. "Eyes Without a Face". Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Idol, Billy. "Rebel Yell". Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Hamblett, Charles, and Jane Deverson. "generation X". Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1964.
  7. ^ Generation X – A Punk History with Pictures
  8. ^ Miller, Jon D. "The Generation X Report: Active, Balanced, and Happy: These young Americans are not bowling alone". University of Michigan, Longitudinal Study of American Youth, funded by the National Science Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  9. ^ Jon D., Miller. "Xplaining Gen X – National Science Foundation Sponsored Webcast". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of Identity By Ronald L. Jackson, II
  11. ^ Strauss, William & Howe, Neil. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. Perennial, 1992 (Reprint). ISBN 0-688-11912-3 p. 318 & p. 324
  12. ^ Chaudhry, Alexandra (2012-04-30). "Obama's Generation X Factor".  
  13. ^ Glenn, Joshua (2008-01-10). "The Original Generation X, 1954–63". Boston Globe. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Masnick, George. "Defining the Generations". Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "U.S. Census Age and Sex Composition: 2010". U.S. Census. 2011-05-11. p. 4. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  16. ^ Miller, Jon (Fall 2011). "The Generation X Report: Active, Balanced, and Happy: These Young Americans are not Bowling Alone". Longitudinal Study of American Youth – University Of Michigan. p. 1. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Dawson, Alene (2011-10-26). "Study says Generation X is balanced and happy". CNN. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  18. ^ "LSAY". LSAY. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  19. ^ Thompson, Clive (31 January 2014). "Congrats, Millennials. Now It’s Your Turn to Be Vilified". Wired. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  20. ^ "Volunteering and Civic Life in America: Generation X Volunteer Rates". Corporation for National and Community Service. November 27, 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  21. ^ "Volunteering in the United States". Bureau of Labor Statistics – U.S. Department of Labor. Feb 22, 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  22. ^ Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, Christine Henseler, Ed.; Routledge, August 2012
  23. ^ Hanson, Peter (2002). The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study of Films and Directors. North Carolina and London: McFarland and Company.  
  24. ^ TIME, Magazine (1998-06-09). "MY GENERATION BELIEVES WE CAN DO ANYTHING". View Askew. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  25. ^ Richard Linklater, Slacker, St Martins Griffin, 1992.
  26. ^ Tasker, Yvonne (October 21, 2010). Fifty Contemporary Film Directors (page 365).  
  27. ^ Russell, Dominique (March 25, 2010). Rape In Art Cinema (page 130: "In this vein, Solondz' films, while set in the present, contain an array of objects and architectural styles that evoke Generation X's childhood and adolescence. Dawn (Heather Matarazzo) wears her hair tied up in a 1970s ponytail holder with large balls, despite the fact her brother works at a 1990 Macintosh computer, in a film that came out in 1996.").  
  28. ^ "The Breakfast Club". 
  29. ^ "Don't You (Forget About Me)". 
  30. ^ Aronchick., David. "'"Happy Birthday John Hughes: The Voice of My So-Called 'Lost Generation. Huff Post Entertainment. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  31. ^ a b Isaksen, Judy L. (2002). "Generation X". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. 
  32. ^ "Out: 10 years after Cobain, can grunge speak to spirit of a generation?". Savannah Now. April 2004. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  33. ^ Wilson, Carl (2011-08-04). "My So Called Adulthood". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  34. ^ [1]
  35. ^ .U.S. Census Bureau, in their 2009 Statistical Abstract.
  36. ^ a b "20th – Century U.S. Generations". 
  37. ^ Strauss, William; Neil Howe (1991). Generations: The History of Americas Future, 1584 to 2069. New York: Harper Perennial. p. 317.  
  38. ^ Gordinier, Jeff (2008). X Saves the World -- How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking. New York, NY: Penguin Group. pp. Cover.  
  39. ^ Gordinier, Jeff. "Author Jeff Gordinier Discusses X Saves the World". YouTube. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  40. ^ a b Isabel Sawhill, Ph.D; John E. Morton (2007). "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?". Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  41. ^ Steuerle, Eugene; Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, and Sisi Zhang (2013). "Lost Generations? Wealth Building Among Young Americans". Urban Institute. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  42. ^ Economic Mobility Project
  43. ^ Ellis, David (2007-05-25). "Making less than dad did". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  44. ^ Morley Winograd; Michael Hais (2012). "Why Generation X is Sparking a Renaissance in Entrepreneurship". Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  45. ^ Ashthana, Anushka (2008-05-25). "They don't live for work ... they work to live". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  46. ^ Devlin, Kate (2007-12-24). "'"Generation X 'having less sex. The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  47. ^ A (2007-02-18). "Generation X: The slackers who changed the world". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  48. ^ Mesure, Susie (2010-05-23). "Generation X: A mid-life crisis". The Independent (Independent Print Limited). Retrieved 2014-02-15. The Independent on Sunday tested his thesis with a straw poll of Gen Xers (anyone born between 1961 and 1981) to see whether the slacker mid-life crisis has hit the UK. 
  49. ^ A (2007-01-19). "Teaching 'Generation X' a lesson". BBC News. Retrieved 2011-07-23. 
  50. ^ Etherington, Jan (2013-12-18). "Fortysomethings are bearing the brunt of the recession".  
  51. ^ Silvera, Ian (2014-02-05). "Top Performing British Graduates Turned Off by Traditional Jobs". International Business Times UK ( 
  52. ^ Foot, David (1996). Boom, Bust & Echo. Macfarlane Walter & Ross. pp. 18–22.  
  53. ^ Trenton, Thomas Norman (Fall 1997). "Generation X and Political Correctness: Ideological and Religious Transformation Among Students". Canadian Journal of Sociology 22 (4): 417–36. Retrieved 2011-06-03. In Boom, Bust & Echo, Foot (1996: 18–22) divides youth into two groups: 'Generation X' born between 1960 and 1966 and the 'Bust Generation' born between 1967 and 1979. 
  54. ^ Foot, David. Boom, Bust & Echo.Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1996. ISBN 0-921912-97-8. p.19
  55. ^ "CBC Digital Archives". Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  56. ^ Deloitte & Touche LLP, Tourism Industry Association of Canada (2009). "Destination Canada: Are We Doing Enough?". Deloitte Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure Industry and Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC): 1–16. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 67% are members of Generations X (1961–81) and Y (1982–2001), or the 'contemporary generations' 
  57. ^ Nicolosi, Gary (2008-03). "From Maintenance to Mission". The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia. Retrieved 2011-03-31. Generation X (born 1965–1981) 
  58. ^ Holroyd, Jane (2011-07-20). "Talkin' 'bout my label". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  59. ^ McCrindle, Mark (2005-07-18). "Superannuation and the Under 40’s: Summary Report: Research Report on the Attitudes and Views of Generations X and Y on Superannuation.". McCrindle Research. Generation X 1965–1981...Generation X comprises those aged between 24 and 40...Generation Y 1982–2000... 
  60. ^ Kershaw, Pam (2005). "Managing Generation X and Y". The Sydney Morning Herald ( 
  61. ^ Shoebridge, Neil (2006-10-11). "Generation Y: Catch Them If You Can.". Australian Financial Review ( 
  62. ^ Governance and Management (November 2008). "Generation X and Y: Who They Are and What They Want". Board Matters Newsletter 8 (3). Retrieved 2011-03-31. Generation Y 1965–1981 
  63. ^ Eames, David (2008-03-06). "Jumping the Generation Gap".  
  64. ^ Pitt, Dr. Colin (March 2011). "Tuning in to the Next Generation of Leaders". InFinance 125 (1): 1. Generation X: 1965–1981 
  65. ^ McCracken, Heather (2013-12-03). "Gen X & Y Want Same Things From Ideal Job".  
  66. ^


See also

The shorter birth year definitions are shorthand for fertility rates. Gen Xers (as a cultural generation) look beyond demographics to define themselves by a shared location in history, common beliefs, attitudes and values (and a common perceived membership). Defining Gen X purely by demographic bulges and busts (like the Census) misses key cultural indicators that a very different set of young people has come along. Commentators who set Millennial birth boundaries starting in the late-70s often make the same assumptions using fertility rates to define birth dates rather than shared beliefs, attitudes and values. Children born in the early 1960s and after had a very different coming of age experience than those born in the late 1950s. Some of the most influential cultural definers of Gen X were born during the period between 1961 and 1964.[66]

Sources in New Zealand, including the country's labour statistics, define Gen X between the years 1965 and 1981.[63][64] According to a December 2013 article from The New Zealand Herald, a study done by researcher Dr. Kristin Murray of Massey University claims to have "debunked stereotypes about workers of different generations" who "may have more in common than we may think." She found that though there were cultural differences between those in their twenties and those in their mid-thirties, "those cultural differences weren't reflected in underlying values and motivations." But, she found that Generation X-ers (1965–1981) and Baby Boomers (1946–1964) were "most alike." However, Dr. Murray clarifies that her study "focused on values, so there could still be differences in behavior between age groups." Jason Walker, who is the New Zealand managing director for job recruitment company Hays, disagrees with Dr. Murray's findings. His company's research showed that Generation X members worked their way up the corporate ladder, advancing by learning new job skills. The Baby Boomers were dependent on their employers to take care of them if they worked hard. The "technologically savvy" Generation Y members, on the other hand, were "more risk-taking in their careers" and expected "fast-paced results." If they weren't challenging enough, or if they felt like they were in a dead-end job, they would move on.[65]

A Sydney Morning Herald article defined Generation X as "those born roughly between 1963–1980."[58] The Australian Bureau of Statistics use a 1965–1981 birth range to define Generation X.[59][60][61][62]

Australia and New Zealand

One author, and professor at the University of Toronto, David Foot, divides the generation born after the baby boomers into two groups in his book Boom Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift:[52] Generation X, born between 1960 and 1966; and the "Bust Generation", born between 1967 and 1979.[53] In his opinion, those born between the periods of 1947–1966 were the Baby Boomers, where in Canada they were the largest boom of the industrialized world (relative to population).[54] This large boom complicated the job market for the upcoming generation.[55] However, it is also common in Canada to represent Generation Xers using the date ranges 1961–1981 or 1965–1981.[56][57]


In February 2014, The International Business Times UK reported that top British graduates today were "more likely to be attracted to working independently as a freelancer for multiple companies, than looking for a job for life with one employer." According to Kjetil Olsen of Elance, the company which conducted the study, "the big issue for Generation X (born 1961 and 1981) was the end of a job for life," unlike "today's Generation Y (born 1982 to 1993) who appear to be seriously questioning the nature of having a traditional job at all."[51]

The Daily Express article in December 2013 discusses the impact the recession has had on the generation "born between 1961 and 1981." Despite "a good degree" and desired job skills, "they discovered that there is no job security and everywhere there are cutbacks on staff, salaries and benefits," Jan Etherington writes.[50]

The Telegraph cites Generation X birth dates as falling between a longer time span (1965–1985),[46] In 2007, The Independent estimated an earlier range of birth dates (1963–1978) compared to other writers or researchers.[47] However, the newspaper's 2010 article titled "Generation X: A mid-life crisis" uses the 1961 to 1981 date range.[48] The BBC News article about a lack of "mid-career volunteers" in their 20s provides a Generation X age range, which, being written in 2007, would suggest birth years that fall between 1962 and 1982.[49]

A 2008 article by The Observer, cites the Generation X birth years as falling between 1965 and 1982; the same article later describes Millennials as being born between 1982 and 2002. The writer states that Generation Xers were "labelled by some" as the "'me generation' of the Eighties."[45] Another piece written by a Guardian journalist in 2011 uses 1961 to 1981 for this generation.

United Kingdom

According to authors Michael Hais and Morley Winograd, "small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit that Gen Xers embody have become one of the most popular institutions in America. There's been a recent shift in consumer behavior and Gen Xers will join the “idealist generation” in encouraging the celebration of individual effort and business risk-taking. As a result, Xers will spark a renaissance of entrepreneurship in economic life, even as overall confidence in economic institutions declines. Customers, and their needs and wants (including Millennials) will become the North Star for an entire new generation of entrepreneurs".[44]


Generation Flux is a neologism and psychographic designation coined by Fast Company for American employees who need to make several changes in career throughout their working lives because of the chaotic nature of the job market following the Financial crisis of 2007–08. Those in "Generation Flux" have birth years in the ranges of Generation X and Millennials.

A report titled Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well? focused on the income of males 30–39 in 2004 (those born April 1964 – March 1974). The study was released on May 25, 2007 and emphasized that this generation's men made less (by 12%) than their fathers had at that same age in 1974, thus reversing a historical trend. It concluded that per year increases in household income generated by fathers/sons have slowed (from an average of 0.9% to 0.3%), barely keeping pace with inflation. "Family incomes have risen though (over the period 1947 to 2005) because more women have gone to work, supporting the incomes of men, by adding a second earner to the family. And as with male income, the trend is downward".[40][43]

Studies done by Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute challenged the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it.[40][41][42]


In 2008, Details magazine editor-at-large Jeff Gordinier released his book X Saves the World -- How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking.[38][39]

[37] They define Generation X by the years 1961 to 1981.[36] On the first page of the study, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe's definition of a "cohort generation" is cited.[36]

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