Predictions. You've got to love them. In January 1979, American Demographics' first issue devoted itself to articulating its mission. Conrad Taeuber, former associate director of the Bureau of the Census, wrote this about an as-yet unnamed generation: Those born during the post-1964 Baby Bust' will be in a favored position similar to that enjoyed by the over-40 population [in 1979]. Not only will there be fewer of them competing for jobs, services and attention, but there also will have been an increase in public services and provisions made to accommodate the demands of the large number of people that preceded them. They will be the beneficiaries of the Baby Boom.
Come February 1992, AD contributor William Dunn was Hanging Out with American Youth to find out what made the generation tick. Here's one of his observations from the days before Douglas Coupland's fictional title from 1991 crossed over into media currency as a generational label: As Baby Busters age, businesses will cope with rapid fluctuations in the demand for all kinds of products and services. Understanding their wants and needs will be the only way to keep a healthy share of a shrinking market.
Whether or not Generation X was linguistic abuse perpetrated by parents, Boomers, the media, marketers, etc., we felt it was high time this magazine literally come to terms with a demographic group whose influence on business, lifestyles and markets will one day be acknowledged as stunning.
To Dunn's point, we're seeing a demographic flash point in the years ahead, as Gen Xers take their place as the vanguard of the economy's peak income and peak spending. By 2020, only 16 years from now, more than 40 million Xers will be ages 44 to 55, in the sweet spot of economic impact. Xers will spend less. Markets will shrink. Market share will be everything.
Exactly our point, say Xers, who when it's all said and done, may go down in history as America's greatest cost-cut generation. We wanted to explore the economic trend lines, but then came face-to-face with the notion of Xer traits: They're pragmatic, they're smart and they're whatever the opposite of naive is but not Evian.
So we asked Xers questions about livelihood free-agentry, and we offer you their answers in our exclusive report, Gen X: The Unbeholden. We looked at the way they, particularly Gen X women, have leveraged free-agent attitudes about work and home into traditional family values that practically predate memory in Farther Along the X-Axis. And we talk to a bunch of smart individuals about this collective notion and their distaste for being tagged as part of a collective, in Paradox.
The issue is not about derogatory connotations of being part of the generation singly responsible for un-ing American markets. The issue now is, give us a better name to remember you by, and business, society and culture will take that tattoo right off.