Baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and more: Your guide to the generations
Each generation has a reason behind its name, as well as cultural events that shaped the personalities of the people in them
Do you know what generation you belong to? Although you might already have a concept of your own generation, you might be surprised to find that millennials are no longer in college, and Generation Z isn’t the youngest generation.
What counts as a generation?
“Generations are one way to group age cohorts. A generation typically refers to groups of people born over a 15-20 year span,” according to Pew Research Center. Studying people based on age groups — or generations — can be used to better understand the opinions, attitudes, outlook and habits of different demographics.
Why does it matter?
“Generations provide the opportunity to look at Americans both by their place in the life cycle — whether a young adult, a middle-aged parent or a retiree — and by their membership in a cohort of individuals who were born at a similar time,” according to Pew. Researchers, businesses and other organizations have used generations to categorize people and study their behaviors.
What generation are you in?
The dates of birth listed for each generation can vary, depending on reporting. The dates and classification of each generation are done based on a number of factors: “demographics, attitudes, historical events, popular culture, and prevailing consensus among researchers,” Pew states. “As a result, the lines that define the generations are useful tools for analysis, but they should be thought of as guidelines, rather than hard-and-fast distinctions.”
G.I. generation (also known as the “greatest generation”):
- Born in 1924 or earlier.
- 98 years old or older.
- This generation is the oldest living generation. They lived through the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor, and came of age during World War II. Members of the G.I. generation are characterized by their personal responsibility, humility, work ethic, frugality, commitment, integrity and self-sacrifice, due to living through several tragic major world events, according to Family Search.
- Born between 1925 and 1945.
- 77-97 years old.
- These children were either very young during World War II or were born in the aftermath. As the children of the G.I. generation, members of the silent generation are known for their conformity and civic-mindedness, according to Pew. This generation is also known for being hard-working and patriotic.
- The silent generation got its nickname due to the quiet and conservative nature of its members. Most of them were born too late to see any action of World War II and were too old for the hippy movement, according to NPR.
- Born between 1946 and 1964.
- 58-76 years old.
- Following World War II, there was a “boom” in the birthrate — hence the name baby boomers. The population of this generation peaked in 1999, at 78.8 million boomers, according to CNN.
- “Because of their high numbers and the relative prosperity of the U.S. economy during their careers, the baby boomers are an economically influential generation,” reported Investopedia.
- Baby boomers are defined as the “gloomiest generation,” by Pew, given they have rated their satisfaction of life lower and levels of anxiety higher than any other adult generation.
- Born between 1965 and 1980.
- 42-57 years old.
- Gen Xers got their name because of their refusal to be defined as a generation. “Their childhood was defined by many things, such as space exploration, great tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and the development of the modern computer,” states Family Search.
- Gen Xers also saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and were the first generation to grow up after the civil rights movement.
- As the children of baby boomers, Gen Xers were raised in dual-income households more commonly than previous generations. This led children of this generation to be more independent, flexible and self-reliant, according to Family Search.
Millennials (also known as Generation Y):
- Born between 1981 and 1996.
- 26-41 years old.
- When you think of millennials, your mind might first go to college students, but this is far from the truth. Even the youngest millennials have been out of college for several years, and have been in the professional workforce for quite some time.
- Millennials were shaped by the Great Recession, 9/11, and the expansion of social media and the internet, according to Kasasa.
- Millennials recently beat the baby boomers in terms of population and currently stand as the largest generation, Pew states.
- Millennials have a reputation of being self-centered, but on the other hand are more progressive than previous generations. Millennials are more accepting of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, interracial marriage and immigrants, according to Pew.
- Born between 1997 and 2009.
- 13-25 years old.
- Generation Z are in their early adulthood and teens, the younger members of this generation have little to no memory of time before smartphones and social media. They are characterized by the digital age and are the most progressive and diverse generation yet, Pew reports.
- Most of Generation Z have come of age during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the children of Generation X, Gen Zers have grown up in the aftermath of 9/11 and the Great Recession, according to Kasasa.
- Gen Zers have grown up in a world of internet, war, disease and financial insecurity, and have reported higher rates of anxiety and depression, according to Family Search.
- Born between 2010 and 2024.
- 12 years old and younger.
- Many are unaware that there is a generation that comes after Generation Z. Generation Alpha are the youngest generation, with the oldest members being just 12 years old. This generation are the children of millennials and even the older members of Generation Z.
- Members of Generation Alpha are still being born, so there isn’t much data yet on this generation, since they won’t all be born until 2025, according to McCrindle.
- They will likely be the most socially connected generation yet, given few of the oldest members of Generation Z can recall a time before social media and widespread internet use. Analysts have stated that Alpha will be the “best-educated generation ever, the most technologically immersed, and the wealthiest,” according to The Atlantic.