Why Generation Y?

BreakingModern — Baby Boomers, Millennials, Generation X — there’s barely a news item these days that doesn’t mention one of these generational nametags. Why are segments of the population named in this way, and what do the names mean?

Generation Y

The theory is that people born within the same timespan go through similar experiences and are subject to similar influences as they grow up. Therefore they acquire certain characteristics that mark them out from preceding or subsequent generations.

Giving them a name allows social scientists and others to analyze behavior. And, of course, it’s a very useful way for marketers to understand groups of consumers and target their habits and preferences.

A generation or cohort (originally the name for a division of a Roman legion) spans about 20 years, from birth until early adulthood. There are no exact dates to mark each generation, just rough approximations.

The Matures

The generation born before 1945 are known as Matures or the Silent Generation. They experienced the Depression and World War II, so they knew the meaning of great sacrifice and were glad when life settled down so they could lead a “normal” life.

Baby Boomers

Between 1946 and the mid-’60s the Matures enjoyed growing prosperity — and growing families. Their kids induced a population spike in the U.S., and they became known as the Baby Boomers, the first generation to be marketed to via television. As they came of age in the ’60s, the Baby Boomers rebelled against the rules their parents had welcomed. They were idealistic and determined to achieve, no matter what their background.

Generation Y

Generation X

The generation born from the mid-’60s to the early 1980s were overshadowed by the sheer number of Boomers, and were something of an unknown quantity. The name Generation X came from Douglas Coupland’s novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which talked about the lifestyle of young adults during the late ’80s. Sometimes dismissed as slackers or the “me generation,” Generation X grew up in a world of corporate layoffs and the threat of AIDS.

Millennials, or Generation Y

Logically the following generation would become known by some as Generation Y, but also, more descriptively, as the Millennials — those born between the early ’80s and the first years of the new millennium. They are occasionally called the Echo Boomers, the children of Baby Boomers and part of another population boom. The period of time during Millennial growth and coming of age was a time of globalization, which is reason Generation Y feels a strong responsibility to look after the planet.

They don’t care about the money and status their parents worked so hard to achieve. They’re more interested in a balance between work and personal life, and want flexible working, time off to travel and respect in the workplace. Some accuse them of a sense of entitlement that comes from being closely parented.

Generation Z?

So what should we call the next cohort, born after the early 2000s? Inevitably they have already been dubbed Generation Z by some, but others suggest more descriptive names such as Generation We/Wii or iGeneration. This cohort are digital natives and constantly in touch with peers through texting, selfies, gaming and social networks.

Do you feel these generational monikers make any sense? Do you like to be identified in this way with your peers, or does it just create unnecessary conflict between age groups?

For BMod, I’m .

First/Featured Image: © Adrenalinapura / Dollar Photo Club

Second Image: © Monkey Business / Dollar Photo Club

Judy Heminsley

Author: Judy Heminsley

Judy Heminsley is the founder of Work from Home Wisdom, a blog providing advice and inspiration for freelancers and home workers that is regularly featured in the UK national press. She is the author of Work from Home (How To Books), and writes on a variety of topics on her lifestyle blog All Things Bright & Good.

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