Defining the American Generations

How are the generations of people of the last century divided? Nobody is exactly sure, and the answer changes depending upon who you ask. According to Wikipedia, a “social generation” refers to people of a similar age group who share similar experiences. This makes it hard to set up specific boundaries that define each generation, since time is a solid line, and there is often overlap. In addition, the problem with generalizations is that there are always anomalies that stand out. Most people consider themselves to be anomalies, from my observations, and the generations are easier to define by someone not actually in the generation to be defined.

We can here assume for our calculation that a generation is about 15 to 25 years, marking the time the next group of people have children (at the earliest, since nowadays, people have children later in life).

The only solid reference point we have is the Baby Boom, which took place between 1946 and 1964, putting all those born within those years as Baby Boomers. This came about after the War when all the soldiers came home and all knocked up their young wives, all at the same time, and started a family, and moved to a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence (i.e. the American Dream). However, my parents would argue this, as they were both born in 1964, and do not wish to consider themselves “boomers”. This most likely comes from the fact that while the boomers are the last Americans who will receive Social Security benefits in their retirement years, my parents will get nothing, being too young. Nevertheless, let us assume the above definition is our solid, defined block on our imaginary line. The Boomers are characterized by inner-driven idealists who are self-centered, counter-culture, and expect the world to cater to their every need. These were the typical hippies.

There are four undisputed generations in the twentieth century before the Boomers: the Missionary Generation, the Lost Generation, the G.I. Generation, and the Silent Generation. The Missionary Generation refers to people born between 1860 and 1882. The people of this generation were idealist rebels who led fanatical crusades like anti-gold standard, women’s suffrage, and birth control. They focused on the spirit, but were very idealistic. The Lost Generation refers to people born between 1883 and 1900. The people of this generation were too young to fight in WWI, yet too old for WWII. The children were the reaction to the Missionary generation’s idealism, and were realists. These people suffered heavily in the Great Depression and had low self-esteem and were depressed.

The G.I. Generation refers to those who were born between 1901 and 1924. The people of this generation were very work-oriented, cleaned up the squalor of the Missionaries and the decay of the Lost ones, were very traditional in moral values and views on family, had very little interest in religion, were high achievers, and were the most affluent generation of the 20th century. The Silent Generation, like the Missionary Generation, was a crowd of idealists. Born between 1925 and 1945, these were the kids of the war. They were big on bureaucracy and didn’t lead, preferring to be second-in-command. This was a crowd of sheep, looking for leadership.

After the Boomers come two ill-defined generations, usually called Generation X and the Millennial Generation. Usually, Generation X refers to those born from the beginning of the 1960s to the early 1980s. They are more ethnically diverse than the Boomers, and tend to be better educated. They tend to come from rich families, and are independent and work-oriented. They are big on freedom and equal rights (even for things that aren’t actually rights), and like to do things by themselves. They don’t like to work, only working to live, rather than living to work like previous generations.

The Millennial Generation is so very ill-defined because nobody is sure where it begins or ends. Demographers say that the Millennials were born from the mid-1980s to about 2003. They are a very “me”-oriented generation, selfish and dependent on everybody to do things for them. However, if you ask a Millennial, like myself, they will draw a line between those born in the eighties, and those born in the nineties. People born in the eighties, now adults, tend to be more self-centric and believe what the media tells them, and tend to be stupid. People my age however, mid-to-late teens and early twenties, tend to be smarter and wiser to the world around us, and are somewhat less selfish. It’s hard to define the Millennial Generation, because we are still growing up. Those of us born in the mid-1990s see the adults in their mid-20s as selfish morons who set the culture that we live in, which promotes wrong ideals, and they are very much like those hippie boomers. We see those who were born in the late 1990s (now tweens and early teens) as foolish little kids who try to be cool, buying into the sex-crazed culture promoted by the older Millennials and younger Xers, but really end up being total idiots who don’t know how to read and think that Canada is a state. We see us as slightly smarter (but most of us are morons) and more apt to the world, but trapped in a culture that is bad, established by the Boomers, or even as far back as the Missionary Generation! We are the ones who will suffer the consequences of the twentieth century’s iniquities. As for the generation after us, nobody has a name for it, but it is thought to have begun with the kids born in 2004.

Once again, thank you for reading. I got my sources from this site.