The Baby Boom Generation Myth

Is it time for "Generation Jones" to stand uP?

"If you were born between 1954 and 1965, ask yourself this question: "Do I feel like a member of The Baby Boom Generation, Generation X, or neither?" Ask other people of this age which of the two generations they feel a part of. You will quickly find that the vast majority of people in this age group do not feel like Boomers or Xers.

New generations typically assert their "differentness" when their oldest members hit their late teens and early twenties. Three times in the last 35 years, "new generation" choruses have appeared—in the early-60s(Boomers), the mid-70s (us), and early 90s(Xers). While the Boomer and Xer choruses resulted in media feeding frenzies, our attempts to assert our collective identity were largely ignored.

As early as 1972, for example, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story written by 18-year old Joyce Maynard in which she proclaimed that she and her peers were the leading edge of a new generation, one qualitatively different than the Woodstock Generation. Her voice, like the others that followed in the mid-70s, weren't heard by a nation that wasn't ready to deal with a new generation. But for many of us in that new generation, it was a joke that we were being lumped in with the Boomers. It was obvious to us that we were a different generation.

The traditional 1946-1964 definition of The Baby Boomers is filled with errors:

It ludicrously defines a generation by birth rates when actually generational personalities arise from shared formative experiences, not head counts.

The first Boomers were born several years before birth rates happened to increase in '46. Time Magazine, for example, chose their 1966 "Man of the Year" as "The Generation under 25" and many of the most famous Boomers (Jim Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, etc.) were born well before '46.

Nineteen years is too long. As Gail Sheehy (of Passages fame) has noted: "And given the acceleration of the life cycle, a generation is now encapsulated in ten to fifteen years instead of the traditional twenty."

...Admittedly, determining generations is complicated, an inexact science, with inevitable blur on the edges. Nonetheless, broad accurate generalizations emerge with careful analysis. The three generations differ in many ways. One major difference is that Boomers tend to be idealistic, Xers tend to be cynical, and Jonesers tend to be a balance of idealism and cynicism. Attitudinal research bears this out...

Boomers are mostly the offspring of The World War II Generation, Jonesers are mostly the offspring of The Silent Generation, and Xers are mostly the offspring of the Boomers."