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The 3 Biggest Myths About Generation X

Not the mutants some were imagining.

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

June 7, 2012 - 7:00 am


 

3. At Least Get Your Dates Right.

A few days ago, I got an email touting a new study, headlined “Generation X Becoming Less Christian, Less Republican.”

Now, I can’t speak to the accuracy of that conclusion. When the first amateur anthropologists got hold of us in the early 1990s, the general consensus was that Gen-Xers would grow up to be apolitical types who’d embrace traditional values, as a way of rebelling against our hippie parents and teachers. As with most speculative generalizations, one can find evidence for and against that conclusion.

No, my objection to the study is its working definition of Generation X as “the 35 million Americans born between 1965 and 1972.”

Nope. Douglas Coupland was born in 1961. I was born in 1964. And when we’re both nonagenarians, we’ll still be “Generation X.”

We’ve had over 20 years to get this straight, and yet:

The exact date range that constitutes Generation X is the subject of diverging opinions. Part of the variance comes from slightly differing definitions of what exactly Generation X is. Geography can also influence date ranges. (…)

Most sources cite a start in the mid 1960s. Some cite an end date before the end of the 1970s. Others cite an end in the early 1980s; the birth years of 1981 and 1982 are cited as common end dates, with either depending on geographics, researcher, or the determination of what year the first millennial generation officially left grade school.

The deans of American generational studies, Strauss and Howe, date Generation X as those born between 1961 and 1981.

We can fight about this subjective stuff forever, just like we Gen-Xers can have three-hour debates about “Ginger vs Mary-Ann.”

(I used to joke that the quintessential, universal Gen-X conversation would be “Which Cartoon Characters Are Secretly Gay?” — Peppermint Patty, anyone? — but recently, the “gayness” quit being secret.)

The takeaway for pundits and other “experts” is:

“Generation X” isn’t synonymous with “young people today.”

I’m gonna be 50 soon. Dammit.

(And you’ll have to wrest my Chucks off my cold, dead feet.)

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