Generation X, Y – Two Letters, Two Jobs

I’ve noticed a trend in our generation (the subset between Generation X and Y, The MTV Generation): two jobs. Almost everyone I work with and everyone in my family has two jobs. I have two jobs and even my wife has two jobs [Edit: She had two jobs before having kids, now she has one paying job.]. Why is this? Aren’t we supposed to be doing better than our parents? Therein lies the answer, I propose. Our generation expects to live like the generation before it, in the way they’ve grown used to: immediately. Everything is immediate in our generation: Microwave dinners; CDs instead of Tapes (DVDs instead of VHS – learn how to do DVD conversion) mean no waiting for the next song, just skip; and of course, the Internet. All of this leads to wanting to instantly have what we had while living with our parents (Generation Jones – Gen X). To get this we either have to work two jobs or max out our credit (usually both). If you have noticed this trend too, let me know.

Does it feel like the generations are getting smaller, or at least the names for the generations are getting named more often? A generation is generally defined as 20-30 years as this is the time it takes one person to grow up and have a new family. After Generation X (1961-1981) the names for generations began to take off. First there was Generation Y (1976-1997). In general, Generation Y is the offspring of Generation X, but since Generation X and Generation Y overlap by five years, both my older brother and I are both Generation X and Generation Y and our parents are part of neither generation. So what generation are my parents?

My parents are Baby Boomers (1946-1964). Generation X, also known as Echo Boomers, Cold War Generation, or Baby Busters, is the offspring of Baby Boomers so by definition my brother and I are from Generation X even though we fall into the potential range of Generation Y. Because our parents were Baby Boomers (the 12th Generation of Americans), we are by default, Generation X (the 13th Generation of Americans). But if I am definitively Generation X, and by definition my children are Generation Y (1976-1997), I had my children seven years too late. So what generation are they and what went wrong?

They are officially Generation Z (2001-2???). Did we skip a generation? Yes and no. To answer this question, we need to defined sub-generations. These are much more specific and this chart does a great job of explaining it. I am a member of either the Baby Busters (1960-1981) who are defined by experiencing Vietnam War/Cold War or a member of the MTV Generation / Boomerang Generation (1974-1985) defined by the Rise of Mass Media/End of the Cold War. Being that those generations overlap by 4 years, I am going to go with the MTV Generation because culturally, that is what I identify most with. What then, is the sub-generation of my parents?

Even though my parents could be considered Baby Boomers, they themselves have never identified with that generation and so I think them better fit to be in Generation Jones (1951-1971) and within the sub-generation called Beat Generation. Beats are considered the first modern sub-culture, but my parents were not “Beats”. They are simply the lost generation between Baby Boomers and Generation Xers which probably highlights why I feel lost between Generation X and Generation Y. My children’s generation will probably be more defined due to better tracking with technology such as the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Comment (2)

  • gfd55| September 12, 2009

    Very interesting article…kudos. But there is a lot of inconsistency with generational birth years. If Boomers are 46-64 than how can Xers be 61-81? But I agree with you anyway that there is Generation Jones between Boom & X, althought the birth years I’ve pretty much always seen for GenJones are 54-65. The beat generation (Keroac, ginsberg, burroughs et al) is a subgroup of the Silent generation, not GenJones.

    Jones isn’t so lost anymore. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press’ annual Trend Report forecast the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. I thought this page had a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones: http://generationjones.com/2009latest.html

  • Erich| September 13, 2009

    @GFD55 Excellent comment, thank you for the information. I originally used Wikipedia as a source for this information and of course it is prone to error, but I am assuming that some of the overlap in generations is a result of both dispute as to when they officially start and stop and the way that generations are sometimes categorized by the generation’s parents (ex. Generation X are the sons and daughters of the Baby Boomers). As I was born in 1980 I fall on the tail end of Generation X, but my parents were from GenJones, which means I could be classified as Generation Y. It may just be too soon to reflect on such recent history. More time may need to pass.