Generational Progress

Though not so much “research,” as the application of research, the assembled demographic information in this Brief can be of value in media buying, positioning and tactical and strategic planning. The segmentation of the marketplace has fallen into several categories, but none so ubiquitous as age or generational similarities. William Schroer,, has thoroughly described population cohorts in a convenient fashion for planning purposes.

Schroer explains that, when we use such jargon phrases as “... Gen X or Baby Boomer, it seems especially important we have some reasonably good idea of what these terms actually mean... these... phrases for the subcomponents of society demarcated by age... are generally the language used by non-demographers... and society as a whole... “

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 are conservative, compulsive savers, maintain low debt and use more secure financial products. 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 cohorts.

Post-War Cohort: Born 1928-1945

  • Coming of Age: 1946-1963
  • Age in 2004: 59 to 76
  • Current Population: 41 million (declining)

This generation had significant opportunities in jobs and education as the War ended and a post-war economic boom struck America. The growth in Cold War tensions, the potential for nuclear war and other never before seen threats, led to levels of discomfort and uncertainty throughout the generation. Members of this group value security, comfort, and familiar, known activities and environments.

Boomers I or The Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1954

  • Coming of Age: 1963-1972
  • Age in 2004: 50-58
  • Current Population: 33 million

Baby Boomers were defined as those born between 1945 and 1964. That generation encompassed 71 million people 20 years apart in age. It didn’t compute to have those born in 1964 compared with those born in 1946. Attitudes, behaviors and society were vastly different.All the elements that help to define a cohort were violated by the broad span of years originally included in the concept of the Baby Boomers. The first Boomer segment is bounded by the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, the Civil Rights movements and the Vietnam War. Boomers I were in or protested the War. Boomers I had good economic opportunities and were largely optimistic about the potential for America and their own lives.

Boomers II: Born: 1955-1965

  • Coming of Age: 1973-1983
  • Age in 2004: 39 to 49
  • Current Population: 49 million

This first post-Watergate generation lost much of its trust in government and optimistic views the Boomers I maintained. Economic struggles including the oil embargo of 1979 reinforced a sense of “I’m out for me” and narcissism and a focus on self-help and skepticism over media and institutions is representative of attitudes of this cohort. While Boomers I had Vietnam, Boomers II had AIDS as part of their rites of passage.

Generation X: Born 1966-1976

  • Coming of Age: 1988-1994
  • Age in 2004: 28 to 38
  • Current Population: 41 million

Sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation, this was the first generation of “latchkey” kids, exposed to lots of daycare and divorce. Known as the generation with the lowest voting participation rate of any generation, Gen Xers were quoted by Newsweek as “the generation that dropped out without ever turning on the news or tuning in to the social issues around them.”

Gen X is often characterized by high levels of skepticism, “what’s in it for me” attitudes and a reputation for some of the worst music to ever gain popularity. William Morrow cited the childhood divorce of many Gen Xers as “one of the most decisive experiences influencing how Gen Xers will shape their own families”.

Gen Xers are the best educated generation with 29% obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. With that education and a growing maturity, they are forming families with a higher level of caution and pragmatism than their parents. Concerns run high over avoiding broken homes, kids growing up without a parent around, and financial planning.

Generation Y, Echo Boomers or Millenniums: Born 1977-1994

  • Coming of Age: 1998-2006
  • Age in 2004: 10 to 22
  • Current Population: 71 million

The largest cohort since the Baby Boomers. Gen Y kids are known as incredibly sophisticated, technology wise, immune to most traditional marketing and sales they not only grew up with it all, they’ve seen it all and been exposed to it all since early childhood.

Gen Y members are more racially and ethnically diverse and more segmented as an audience aided by the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, etc. Gen Y are less brand loyal and the speed of the Internet has led the cohort to be flexible and changing in its fashion, style consciousness and where and how it is communicated with. One in nine Gen Yers has a credit card co-signed by a parent.

Generation Z: Born 1995-2012

  • Coming of Age: 2013-2020
  • Age in 2004: 0-9
  • Current Population: 23 million and growing rapidly

While we don’t know much about Gen Z yet, says Schroer, we know a lot about the environment in which they are growing up. Their highly diverse environment will make the grade schools of the next generation the most diverse ever. Higher levels of technology will make significant inroads in academics allowing for customized instruction, data mining of student histories to enable pinpoint diagnostics and remediation or accelerated achievement opportunities.

Gen Z kids will grow up with a highly sophisticated media and computer environment and will be more Internet savvy and expert than their Gen Y forerunners.

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4 comments about "Generational Progress".
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  1. Chris Simpson from AU/SOC, March 25, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.

    The report reads more like a collection of media stereotypes than a collection of research. The descriptions are so general as to be useless for any purpose _except_ stereotyping -- for example, a 'generation' is said to be 'skeptical'. Another supposedly creates bad music. This sort of silliness discredits and undermines media research generally.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 25, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.

    2004 ? And we are all declining or reclining.

  3. Dan Ortega from Hyperdyme Systems, March 25, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.

    This is a nice layout of broad terminology, but why is the reference point 2004? Is this study nearly 10 years old?

  4. Serena Ehrlich from Business Wire, March 25, 2013 at 3:30 p.m.

    A great read and a fantastic primer/reminder on the terminology people use to reference generations and what differentiates each category. Thank you!

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