Monday, February 16, 2009

What generation are my kids?

Via GenXpert, I found another Gen X blogger, The Gen X Files, which led me to an interesting thought. Dave who writes this blog is a Gen Xer, and has a couple of kids, the younger of whom is 8, about the same age as my older son. And Dave says his kids are Millenials, or Gen Y. But are they?

I know we like to put labels on everything, to put people into convenient boxes so we can classify them, clarify them, and of course market to them. And that works to some degree, but sometimes we draw the box too broadly.

Take the boomers. They've been defined as the children of the post-war generation who came of age in the 60s and 70s. Who are now entering the last decade or so of work, starting to be grandparents, etc. I loved the label Generation X when Douglas Copeland first defined it. We were the gap generation, not the boomers, not the children of boomers. Our parents were born during World War Two. We came of age in the 80s, and entered the work world right when all the boomers swelled the ranks and left no openings, when bad times hit the economy and our hopes of life-long employers like our parents had had was a wasted dream.

The generation right after us, the echo boom, Gen Y, Millenials, or whatever name they go by, had it better. Their parents hovered, sheltered, and made life easier for them (which is in no way to be interpreted as a swipe at our parents, who did a fine job!). Because they were numerous where Gen X was few, they were a desired audience, so media paid attention to them in spades, as did marketers. They grew up in a more digital world, with video games, home computers, and ubiquitous cell phones and internet. They wouldn't know how to dial a rotary phone, load the paper in a typewriter, or maybe even crank the film forward in a camera.

Right. That's us, that's them. But what about my kids? They are the children of Gen Xers through and through, born at the beginning of the 2000s (does that decade have a name yet?). They are growing up in the shadow of Gen Y, although that shadow is nowhere near as suffocating as the boomers' shadow under which I grew up. Are they a generation of their own, or will they be lumped in with the group 15-20 years older than them? What do we know about my children's generation?

Wikipedia defines Gen Y as born right up to 2000. My son was born in 2001. Some have called this group Generation Z (we're going to run out of letters soon!). Another Wikipedia article says Generation Z starts with those born after 1997 (although the same article as says those born after 1991).

While my googling is hardly extensive research, I think it helps prove my point that whatever generation and whatever their defining characteristics come to define my children, they are not Gen Y. I hope their generation gets what ours lacked -- enough numbers to have advantages but small enough to not lose out in the workplace.


Dave Sohigian said...


Thanks for the link! I agree it is too early to call when it comes to what generation our kids are in, although I am fairly confident that my 12 year old (born in 1996) is a Millennial. There are so many classifications for generations, but the one I find most useful is Strauss and Howe's definitions. They suggest that generations are 20-25 years in length, and have lots of historical data to back this up. The reason why I like their classifications is because there is historical precedence for their divisions. Although 20-25 years may sound like a long time, it is surprising how much a cohort that large can have in common. There is no question my 8 year old (born in 2000) won't be just like an 8 year old born in 1982, but they will have a surprising amount in common (just like I do with Gen X'ers born in 1979, even though I was born in 1966). I highly recommend reading one of Strauss and Howe's books, such as "Millennials Rising" to get a picture of how their theories play out. Seeing t
he generations through this lens gives an understanding of where we are headed (although you may not like their predictions, especially for what our kids will face in the next 10-15 years).

Anonymous said...

The decade of 2000 is called the "norties"