Though the years may seem arbitrary, generations are determined by cultural touchpoints that define a group of people’s upbringing. While your generation doesn’t determine your personality, it can give insight into the general values people your age hold. More importantly, it provides an explanation for why they formed that belief or trait in the first place.
Let’s take a look at the latest generations and see what defines them.
How Long Is a Generation?
Generations are not determined by an exact number of years. They’re determined by important cultural touchpoints and events that shape the development of a group of people. As a result, some generations can be as short as 10 years, whereas other generations can span around 20 years.
Also, the exact start and end years of a generation can be debated. Different sources list different start and end dates for each generation. Someone born on the cusp of a new generation might identify more strongly with the previous generation, depending on their upbringing. Studying and understanding generations isn’t an exact science, so it’s okay if you feel that you don’t fit in perfectly in one category or another.
Also, your socioeconomic status will impact how you fit into one generation. Gen Alphas are known to have access to the most materialistic possessions, but someone in a lower class household may not identify with that generational trait. While I technically fall into the years of Gen Z, my parents were older when they had me. This shaped my childhood as I didn’t have a phone until I was 17 and we focused more on outdoor play. I call myself a Millennial as I feel the description better suits my experience growing up and who I am now as an adult.
The Greatest Generation
Born between: 1910 and 1924
News broadcaster Tom Brokaw came up with the name for this generation. He called them the “greatest generation” because he believed they fought for right rather than personal gain.
The Greatest Generation lived through the Great Depression. Many of them fought in World War II or worked in industries that supported the war efforts. Patriotism reached a high during this era. Apart from being called the Greatest Generation, some call them the GI Joe Generation.
These are the parents of the Baby Boomers and children of the Lost Generation.
The Silent Generation
Born between: 1925 and 1945
The Silent Generation grew up in the midst of the Great Depression and watched their older siblings go to fight in World War II. Due to the hardship they faced very early on in life, they ended up having significantly fewer children than the Greatest Generation ended up having.
The Silent Generation came to age during the Civil Rights Movement, and many of this generation helped shape it. They also had a hand in creating rock and roll during the 1950s and 1960s.
Baby Boomer Generation
Born between: 1946 and 1964
Many have heard of the Baby Boomers from the popularized phrase “Ok, Boomer,” used by Gen Z and Millenials to discount the whining of older customers. Many “Karens” belong to the Boomer generation.
After World War II, there was a sharp increase in pregnancies and births, which is where the “baby boomer” name comes from. Baby Boomers had it good. They had no wars to fight, the economy flourished, and they spent every dollar they earned on the next new invention. This consumerism fueled the world economy. Their optimism and faith in “the system” falls on deaf ears as the system no longer functions for Millennials and Gen Zers.
Born between: 1965 and 1979
Known as the “latchkey generation,” this generation saw their parents more commonly getting a divorce. The name “latchkey generation” came from the fact that there was less adult supervision, so kids would have to use a key to return to an empty house. There was an increase in maternal workforce participation, and so childcare options besides a stay at home parent became more widely available and accepted.
As they reached adolescence and young adulthood during the 80s and 90s, Gen X was sometimes called the “MTV Generation.” Some considered them cynical slackers as they engaged in the punk, post-punk, and heavy metal movements.
Born between: 1975 and 1985
Known as a crossover generation, Xennials include those that don’t quite fit into Generation X or Millenials, resulting in the portmanteau name. The popular video game Oregon Trail also became a nickname for the generation: the Oregon Trail Generation. Good Magazine described the need for the crossover generation as “a micro-generation that serves as a bridge between the disaffection of Gen X and the blithe optimism of Millennials.”
Born between: 1980 and 1994
Millennials came of age when the American experience took a sharp turn, deviating from the years of prosperity that Baby Boomers enjoyed. This contradicted the way they were raised, which enforced that they were all capable of following their dreams if they worked hard enough. It worked for their parents, the Baby Boomers, but the sentiment no longer holds true. This reality hit them harshly when they came of age. They sunk themselves into debt going to college and then realized the job market wasn’t what they were led to believe.
The economy tanked in 2008, resulting in the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression. Housing markets became impossible to navigate as the cost of a house soared well above most Millennials’ means. The 9/11 terrorist attack shaped international relations and domestic fear. All of these factors resulted in diametrically opposed political parties that struggle to find common ground.
Born between: 1995 and 2012
Also known as iGen, this generation grew up deeply intertwined with technology. Most of them grew up with a phone from a young age, having access to content through iPads, computers, and smart TVs.
Whereas Millennials became disillusioned after they invested in college, Gen Z grew up skeptical from the start. They are more likely to weigh their options when it comes to college, but they are also more likely to view the world with hopelessness.
This generation expresses more tolerance for other cultures, sexualities, and races. While they are less likely to go to church, they’re also less likely to have teen pregnancies or drink or do drugs in high school.
They are more connected than ever, but they generally feel more alone. Experiencing higher rates of depression than previous generations, they may have a higher suicide rate. However, they are more open about discussing mental health issues and going to therapy.
Born between: 2013 and 2025
By the time we reach 2025 – the predicted end of the Gen Alpha generation – they will number around 2 billion. This number makes them the largest generation in history, even outnumbering the Baby Boomers. That statistic starkly contrasts the idea that population number will dwindle as people choose to be child free.
Even more so than Gen Z, Gen Alpha has even more access to technology, even in the classroom. COVID-19 impacted all generations, but it’s sharply dominating the development of Gen Alpha’s integration of technology in school. Almost every student has a Chromebook and teachers use software like Google Classroom to grade and disseminate assignments and learning materials. Gen Alpha is one of the most materialistic generations so far, having access to much of what they need and oftentimes much more than what they need.
So now that you’ve taken a look at the different generations, do you think that you fit in with yours? What cultural events do you think have a long term impact on different generations that weren’t included here?
Let us know if you think your generational description is an accurate representation of the people you grew up with!
Author, Artist, Photographer.
Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.
She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.
She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.