LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Published on .

GENERATION ISSUES

I read American Demographics avidly back when I was in marketing research and recently re-subscribed to to catch up on demographic trends that impact my clients. I applaud and respect your commitment to valid sampling and research design methodology.

But can your magazine please impose a more standard definition of currently active generations on its contributing authors? I have received four issues in my new subscription so far, and have seen multiple issues where several articles used substantially different start and end year breaks for Gen X and Gen Y. Some of the articles went so far as to call age cohorts as small as five years generations. As a result, I am moved to protest.

Authors, Read Strauss and Howe, please. Their book Generations reads like a textbook, but their methodology for defining generational breakpoints as cataclysmic world and social events is compelling. In 1991, they defined the Boom as 1943-1960 (18 years) and Gen X as 1961-1980 (20 years), with the endpoint of Gen X fuzzy since we were short of cataclysmic events or truly strong social movements at the time. I can't really argue with 1960/61 as the breakpoint between the Boom and Gen X. Being born in 1963, I have no strong memory of Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, race riots, hippies or Woodstock. I was not influenced by those social movements or national events, nor was any person of my age that I know.

With 9/11, I believe we may have a defining generational breakpoint. Using the Strauss and Howe methodology, I would like to propose 1961-1978 as Gen X (18 years), with 1979 as a clearer beginning of Gen Y. These kids would have been getting out of college in 2001, and their first adult experiences are being shaped by the Dubya recession and as enlisted men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their sergeants and managers are Gen Xers. The earliest reasonable endpoint of Gen Y is 18 years later, placing it around 1997. This would mean that the youngest cohort of Gen Y to really understand and be influenced by 9/11 and subsequent events fall in the 5- to 8-year-old age cohort, which seems reasonable to me.

LYNNE MYSLIWIEC

Vice President, Analytics

Epsilon Data Management

Wakefield, Mass
.

Editors' note

Our generations are demarcated by changes in the number or the rate of births. For example, the dividing line between the Baby Boom and Gen X is 1964, the first year that the number of births fell below 4 million in the 1960s. We do try to have our contributing writers follow our guidelines, but the wide range of data sources they use sometimes don't match our age groupings.

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