Generation X

Welcome to Adulthood, Gen Z

The post-millennial generation starts turning 18 this year, while the eldest members of the post-Gen Z cohort are starting to be born.


Jen Lowery / Splash News/Newscom

The Pew Research Center takes a look this week at political polarization between generations. Unsurprisingly, millennials and Gen X'ers (those in the 19- to 52-year-old age range this year) poll more liberal than their older counterparts, with differences especially stark when it came to labeling oneself a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. What did surprise me about Pew's latest round of generational sorting is that 2016 was the last year in which surveys of U.S. adults could exclude "Gen Z."

Granted, generational boundaries are about as disputed as territorial borders (and as much of a social construct), and no one has quite agreed yet on when the millennial generation begins and ends. But Pew is as good an arbiter of generational parameters as any, and here's how it categorizes us:

  • You're a millennial if you turn 19- to 36-years-old in 2017 (birth years 1981-1998)
  • You're part of Gen X if you turn 37- to 52-years-old in 2017 (birth years 1965-1980)
  • You're a baby boomer if you turn 53- to 71-years-old in 2017 (birth years 1946-1964)
  • You're a member of the Silent Generation if you turn 72- to 89-years-old in 2017 (birth years 1928-1945)

Folks still living who were born before 1928 are mostly part of the generation alternately referred to as the "G.I. Generation" or the "Greatest Generation." Those born after 1998 are currently (and quite unimaginatively) being called Generation Z. And, by Pew's math, the eldest members of this nascent generation are turning 18 this year.

Welcome to adulthood, Gen Z!

As one of the oldest members of your immediate ancestors in American youth, I'd like to officially transfer the think-piece mantle your way. As millennials' misadventures in youthful entitlement and narcissism dwindle, may your place as a scapegoat for societal fears about sex, technology, and general change shine bright. May Gen X prove as much a collective nemesis for you as boomers have so generously done for my generation. And, perhaps most importantly, may you please be patient in a few years when you're trying to explain to us how to upload a hologram snap to Mind Twitter.

Also, for what it's worth, millennials may have spawned Facebook, but don't blame us if Americans are more politically polarized these days. According to another recent generational study, it's the oldest Americans who have grown the most polarized within their own generation in recent decades. While many people attribute political polarization to social media or the internet more broadly, the study's authors found that, between 1996 and 2012, the increase in polarization was "largest among the groups least likely to use the internet and social media." On a nine-point measure of different sorts of polarization, the gap grew by 0.38 index points for respondents ages 75 and older, but just 0.05 index points for adults ages 39 and below.

Lastly, don't get too comfortable, kids—your generational predecessors are already arriving. Going by Pew's parameters, the typical generation spans about 17 years… which means that the last of Gen Z babies were likely born in 2016. A new generation starts being born this year.

Welcome to the world, post-Gen Z generation! What a weird, absurdist time to be starting your lives. May we course correct a bit here before you hit adulthood. (Alternately, tell your kids to give President Ivanka's reanimated corpse and V.P. Chelsea Clinton's cryogenically frozen head my love, and sorry about the Kardashians. That one really is our fault.)

NEXT: The Divisive Logic of the Welfare State

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  1. generational boundaries are about as disputed as territorial borders (and as much of a social construct),

    Let us not forget to include the boundary between adolescent and adult in that litany of made up shit that mostly doesn’t matter.

    1. You saying it’s wrong to form judgments of people based on arbitrary group divisions? What are you, some kind of individualist?

      1. Frankly I resent being judged on the basis of an arbitrary categorization like ‘individualist’.

        1. That’s not what i judge you on.

  2. Now that they’re 18, let’s make sure that they’re polled…good and hard.

  3. “Never trust anyone over 30” (including me)
    Good advice then, good advice now.

  4. Mind Twitter was my nickname in college.

  5. As an old millennial, can I complain about kids these days yet?

    1. Do you have a lawn?

    2. I am relieved that the generation being born now is going to be the last generation.

  6. A new generation starts being born this year.

    Ja, ja, der Trumpenjugend geboren!

    1. Sieg Haar!

  7. Granted, generational boundaries are about as disputed as territorial borders (and as much of a social construct)…

    Build the damn wall! And stay off of the Faceboo. It’s scary. As a member of Generation Y, I say YOLO!

  8. Welcome to adulthood! Now get a job and pay those taxes, I’ll need my SSN and entitlements covered being a baby boomer (my parents fault, I didn’t ask to be born). I’d like to apologize for my votes for presidents who overspent and ran up the deficit thus handing my bill to you. In my defense big guvmint started well before my time and I had to vote for the lesser of 2 evils. BTW, the best years were the ones with the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. Wear a condom (you bring so no pin holes) though, diseases now will kill you and women can, and do, lie about their reproductive status. And take it with you as a man’s right to reproduction ends at ejaculation so if she steals it, you’re on the hook. Hey, somebody had to fit the “Renegade History” mold! Again, sorry for that deficit.

    1. Oh ya, almost forgot remember to sign of for the draft. Men only, of course, “oppressed women need not apply”. If the boomers, Xers, and millenials decide to start up ANOTHER conflict they may need you as cannon fodder while the girls sit home and listen to Hillary tell them how they are the primary victims of war because “they lose their fathers, husbands, and son’s in combat”. Nobody said life was going to be fair, did they?

  9. Also, for what it’s worth, millennials may have spawned Faceboo

    Which is funny because I’m not personally acquainted with many millennials who use it. They seem to have moved on to other platforms like Snapchat and… other platforms. It’s all soccer moms on facebook from what I can see.

    1. This. I have never even visited the sites where today’s youth spend all their time. Except Youtube? Why isn’t there a youth-oriented Youtube yet? Or is there?

      1. Well, Vine tried, but really there’s no point as youtube is a fine service and it’s quite easy to partition off into different communities, so why go somewhere else when you can find what you are looking for in one place. On youtube the number one channel by subscriptions is Pewdiepie, an annoying gamer/jokester, and I’ve heard he’s popular among the youth, so I’d say the youth oriented youtubes are on youtube itself, just on the channels that are better avoided.

        1. Youtube has “channels”? I only ever search for specific videos and then I get flooded with recommendation which seem to come from everywhere. IOW, there’s no way to avoid the stupid that I can tell.

    2. Yeah, my daughter says she only uses it occasionally because Grandma is on it.

      1. my teen cousin says he might get a facebook just so I can tag him in pictures instead of his mom. he and his friends don’t want any TV, it’s all youtube.

        Also something called houseparty? I guess he talks with all his school buddies on that

        1. he and his friends don’t want any TV, it’s all youtube

          I literally can’t even.

  10. Gen X seems fairly well disputed

    Howe says that while many demographers use 1965 as a start date for Generation X, this is a statement about fertility in the population (birth rates which began declining in 1957, declined more sharply following 1964) and fails to take into consideration the shared history and cultural identity of the individuals. Strauss and Howe define Generation X as those born between 1961?1981

    I tend to agree with the earlier start.

    1. I agree with 1965, actually. I have three older brothers born in the early 60s. I was born in 69 and I don’t feel as much shared cultural identity with them as this guy thinks. The 70s, where they came of us, feels alien to me at least in comparison to the 80s.

      1. came of “age”

      2. This. Also born in 69

        A can feel a connection to kids born in 85 and coming of age in the very early aughts that just isn’t there for me with guys who were in high school in 1975

    2. Gen X was orivinally coined to refer to those who were too young to be boomers and not young enough to be thier offspring. In-betweeners who lacked the collective demographic clout that the large groups before or after them carry. The fact that the label was co-opted by simplifiers to mean “the follow-on to the boom” just kind of proves the point.

      If your dad was under 18 in 1945, are you a boomer? The idea that there are really separate generations is ridiculous. It’s like like dividing colors on the spectrum, some wavelengths are clearly green and others yellow, but is there a line in between?

  11. Oh, good, I’m tired of being tired of hearing about Millennials all the time. Maybe now I can start to be tired of hearing about Gen-Z instead.

    1. And “if we do not find anything very pleasant, at least we shall find something new”…

  12. Wait, being born on the turn of the millennium doesn’t make you a millennial? These rules are stupid.

    1. It was originally the high-school graduating class of 2000 that was deemed the start date of millennials (1982 births)
      (I know this because that’s me)

      1. The naming rules are still stupid. Who names a generation after when they graduate high school? Morons, that’s who.

        1. The naming rules are still stupid.

          If only for the arbitrary vacillation between socio-historic milestones and whimsical alphabetical progressions.

          I feel like, Gen Z, has culturally appropriated from Gen X, whether they rightfully earn their Zed through zombie apocalypse or not.

          1. Well, Gen Z are the children of Gen X.

          2. And the alphabetical progression is extra stupid in that it started at X, giving them a max of 3 generations before they have to come up with something new. Maybe we’ll start using the Greek alphabet for future groups who lack a defining historical moment to name them.

        2. HS graduation is a fairly decent “coming of age” milestone.

          What always confused me was that at some point people switched from “generation Y” to “millennial”. So for a while I thought they referred to different cohorts.

          1. HS graduation is a fairly decent “coming of age” milestone.

            But that’s not the explicit rule or it’s not rigorously implemented. We get 18 yrs. before 2000 vs. 18 yrs. after The War… shaving points in between. Moreover, 18-yr.-old in the war vs. 18-yr.-old in 2000 seems completely arbitrary maturity-wise (and increasingly so) as well.

            1. Well, yeah, none of it is terribly meaningful or rigorous. Yeah, people with a 20 year age difference have pretty different cultural experiences in their lifetimes. That doesn’t mean in makes sense to break people up into neat 20 year cohorts.

        3. The whole idea of a generation that spans over an arbitrary number of years is kinda dumb.

  13. I’d like to officially transfer the think-piece mantle your way.

    A real millennial would’ve posted this on Twitter.

  14. Doug Coupland didn’t have much foresight with the term Generation X. What comes after Generation Z? Generation AA?

    1. I think that originally the “X” was more in the sense of unknown or difficult to define. Calling the next one “gen y” is where it went wrong.

      Here’s a question. Was anyone naming “generations” (as if that actualyl means anything) like this before Baby Boomers? I think that calling the WWII/depression generation “the greatest generation” happened much later. And even “Baby Boom” was originally just a name for the big increase in birth rate after WWII.

      The whole notion that is is meaningful to talk about discrete generations like this is the stupid part.

      1. I think that calling the WWII/depression generation “the greatest generation” happened much later.

        I’m going with a decided “No”. I had never heard ‘The Greatest Generation’ until Brokaw published his book in ’98. Prior to that, they just ‘grew up during the depression’ and/or ‘served in the war’.

        Not to mention that it gets conflated with stuff like the digital age, the information age, the nuclear family, and other stuff that literally composes the zeitgeist

      2. Wikipedia (for what it’s worth) claims the whole generation naming system got it’s start with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s calling the WW1 generation the “Lost Generation” and that Time magazine added to it by coining “Silent Generation” in the 1950s, with the boomers shortly afterward being recognized as a distinct generation, so this naming convention has been going on for a while.

  15. We had a speaker on this at one of my work conferences — I’m 30 and don’t figure to be a millennial, but I guess I am, and the talk was on millennials in the workplace. How about half (like me) are doing what you are supposed to be doing, but the other half are falling behind. Insert joke about Gender Studies graduate living at home working at Starbucks.

    But they the talk moved to Gen Z, and how many millennials are in danger of being leapfrogged by Gen Z, and I thought of my 13 yo cousin (8th grader). He has a strong work ethic and loves working over the summer when he’s out of school, and especially likes how people treat him like an adult and not a kid. If he wants something, he works for it, and doesn’t feel entitled to anything. Also when I was talking to his friends, they all want to work, his 16 yo friend has been driving since he could get his permit, and many of them have more technical knowledge, less entitlement, and a stronger work ethic than many people my age do.

    My roommate had a girlfriend who didn’t work, didn’t want to work, didn’t even drive and lived at mommy and daddy’s place. She was more than double my cousin’s age, and he’s doing more than she was.

    Yeah, those millennials that don’t get their act together are fucked.

    1. oh and I should point out that my cousin and most of his friends do not use twitter, facebook, etc, and they all hate selfies.

      I have hope for the future

    2. I agree. I am a boomer, yet I’m authoring a project about GenZ, and I see signs of hope, many similar to what you posted. Especially the work ethic. Many don’t seem to be ‘slackers.’ Seriously. I think they know the free ride is of dubious reliability.

      So I’m writing it with positive uplift, without ignoring the trouble all around.

  16. I sum up my millennial gen with jar jar binks it just sucked

  17. You’re part of Gen X if you turn 37- to 52-years-old in 2017 (birth years 1965-1980)
    You’re a baby boomer if you turn 53- to 71-years-old in 2017 (birth years 1946-1964)

    So, if my mom was born a couple years later, we would be part of the same generation?

    I was born (2 months premature) in October 1964- what is my “generational” connection to someone born in 1956, let alone 1946?

    Dudes born in 1946 probably had to dodge the draft, or get shipped off to Viet Nam- I wasn’t even born when we cranked it up over there.

    Dudes born in 1956 probably remember the first moon landing vividly, I was a 4 yr old whose dad let me stay up late to go out in the backyard and look at the moon and he said, “There are humans walking up there right now”. Did you understand 240,000 miles (and 7 miles per second) when you were 4 yrs old?

    Likewise, my first “political memory” is obviously Watergate- How many “Gen X’ers” remember that?

    It’s bullshit.

    1. You know they’re trying to rig stats when they have different lengths for the generations (18 years for millenials and boomers, 15 for Gen X, 17 for silent). The “fourth turning” idiots do the same thing.

    2. Yes it is possible for a parent and child to be in the same generation, particularly if the mother was around age 18 when she gave birth as generations tend to be assigned lengths around 15-20 years.

      And yes, they’re all arbitrary social constructs (or as you put it, bullshit) that have no basis in reality. But as humans we really like to put things into categories so that we can assign characteristics to things in those categories.

      Unfortunately for young people it is very common practice for the older generations to call the younger generations things like lazy and narcissistic. They said it about hippie baby boomers, they said it about the MTV watching Gen X’ers, they said it about social media snowflake millenials, and they’ll say it about whatever this new generation will eventually be called and whatever new scary technology they aren’t afraid to use.

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