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  • Kevan Oswald

Defining Generations


The oldest Gen Xers will turn 50 this year (2015). At least most consider that to be the case. Baby Boomers are widely agreed upon as having been born between 1946 and 1964, making 1965 the starting year for Generation X. After that, start and stop dates for each generation start to get a little fuzzy.


In an attempt to define the birth years of generations X, Y and Z, I scoured the Internet for authoritative sources that might hold the answer, my objective being to gather a “sample” and then from that form some sort of consensus. I collected data from Forbs, US News, Time Magazine, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, CNBC, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. In all, a total 25 sources for each of the three generations were used*.


Typically these sources had some sort of article in which they discussed various characteristics of one generation or another and in that article defined the birth years or current age range of that generation.


As expected, the defined birth years for each generation varied from source to source. In the graph to the left, the birth year is the first column, the number of sources that consider that year to be a birth year for each generation can be found in the next three columns. So for example, 5 out of 25 sources consider 1964 to be a birth year for Generation X. That number rises sharply to 21 in 1965 and reaches a full consensus of 25 out of 25 from 1966 to 1975 before dropping down to 21 out of 25 again in 1976.


As I said earlier 1965 appears to be a pretty safe year to conclusively mark as the starting point of Generation X, but the ending point isn’t so simple. If we were to ask 100 people born in 1980 what generation they are, my guess is that about a third would say Generation X, a third would say Millennials, and a third would say “Don’t know/not sure.” In fact this in-between group has even been defined by some as its own generation and is sometimes called the “MTV generation,” “XY Cusp,” or the “Boomerang Generation.” The same trouble faces those born in 1995, or anyone born in the mid to late 90’s for that matter. Are they Millennials or Generation Z? What should we call this in-between generation?


Speaking of names, beyond defining years, as sociologists and marketers we still can’t conclusively agree what to call these generations.


*Sources:

Gen X: Huffington Post, Pew Research, The Atlantic, Urban Dictionary, Bloomberg, NPR, Fox Business, Washington Post, Time, Forbes, NY Times, Career Planner, Yahoo Finance, Houseingwire, US News, ABC News, The Street, Wall Street Journal, Metlife, Ad Age, LA Times, Google, Business Insider, Gallup.

Gen Y: Time, Pew Research, USC, Whitehouse.gov, CBS News, Nielson, NY Times, Forbs, Live Science. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Metlife, Goldman Sachs, Urban Dictionary, CNBC, US News, The Denver Post, Fox Business, Fortune, Dictionary, LA Times, Inc., NASA.

Gen Z: Forbes, Career Planner, LA Times, Bloomberg, Adweek, Marketo, Inc., CNBC, Knoll, Workopolis, Say Daily, Digiday, TLNT, JCK Mag, Direct Marketing News, Target Marketing, James Madison University, Bandwatch, Social Marketing, marketplace.org, Talented Heads, Entrepreneur, Time, Yale.edu.

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