Generations X,Y, Z and the Others
William J. Schroer

We often use phrases or words that we don’t fully understand. Sometimes we even use words or phrases the meanings of which we are totally clueless. As people with a passion for words and language, that is generally not viewed as a desirable trait. Yet, the plain fact is we can’t have a detailed understanding of every word or phrase...particularly when the word belongs to the jargon of a larger body of knowledge.

However, when that jargon is in use as often and frequently as the phrases “Gen X” or “Baby Boomer”, it seems especially important we have some reasonably good idea of what these terms actually mean. Although these phrases, as jargon, stem from the larger discipline of demographics, and are used most frequently by market researchers, the fact is everybody uses these words and phrases. In effect, these cue words or phrases for the subcomponents of society demarcated by age are not only useful, but are generally the language used by non-demographers and society as a whole when discussing the current spectrum of population cohorts.

Our goal, this month, then, is to provide a primer on the identification and description of the population cohorts in America as currently widely (but not universally) agreed upon by demographers and market researchers.

The Depression Era
Born: 1912-1921
Coming of Age: 1930-1939
Age in 2004: 83 to 92
Current Population: 11-12 million (and declining rapidly)
Depression era individuals tend to be conservative, compulsive savers, maintain low debt and use more secure financial products like CDs versus stocks. These individuals tend to feel a responsibility to leave a legacy to their children. Tend to be patriotic, oriented toward work before pleasure, respect for authority, have a sense of moral obligation.

World War II
Born: 1922 to 1927
Coming of Age: 1940-1945
Age in 2004: 77-82
Current Population: 11 million (in quickening decline)
People in this cohort shared in a common goal of defeating the Axis powers. There was an accepted sense of “deferment” among this group, contrasted with the emphasis on “me” in more recent (i.e. Gen X) cohorts.

 
 
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