Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom. Demographers, historians and commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.
Origin and etymology
The term Generation X was coined by the Magnum photographer Robert Capa in the early 1950s. He used it later as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the Second World War. The project first appeared in Picture Post (UK) and Holiday (US) in 1953. Describing his intention, Capa said "We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realised that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with."  The term was used for various subcultures or countercultures after the 1950s.
The name was popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles. While Coupland's book helped to popularize the phrase Generation X in a 1989 magazine article  he erroneously attributed it to English rock musician Billy Idol. In fact, Billy Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976–1981, which was named after Deverson and Hamblett's 1965 sociology book Generation X -- a copy of which was owned by Idol's mother.
Characteristics and definition
In a 2012 article for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, George Masnick wrote that the "Census counted 82.1 million" Gen Xers in the U.S. The Harvard Center uses 1965 to 1984 to define Gen X so that Boomers, Xers and Millennials "cover equal 20-year age spans". Masnick concluded that immigration has filled in any birth year deficits during low fertility years of the late 1960s and early 1970s 
Jon Miller at the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan wrote that "Generation X refers to adults born between 1961 and 1981" and it "includes 84 million people" in the U.S.
The 2011 publication "The Generation X Report", based on annual surveys used in the Longitudinal Study of today's adults, finds that Gen Xers, who are defined in the report as people born between 1961 and 1981, are highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented. The study dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970 and 80s. Various questions and responses from approximately 4,000 people who were surveyed each year from 1987 through 2010 made up the study. Clive Thompson, writing in Wired magazine in 2014 claimed that the differences between Generation X and its predecessors, and followers had been over-hyped, quoting Kali Trzesniewski, a scholar of life-span changes as saying, "Despite constant handwringing over generational shifts, the basic personality metrics of Americans have remained remarkably stable for decades." Thompson concluded, "The real pattern here isn’t any big cultural shift. It’s a much more venerable algorithm: How middle-aged folks freak out over niggling cultural differences between themselves and twentysomethings."
In 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Generation X volunteer rates in the U.S. at "29.4% per year", the highest compared with other generations. The rankings were based on a three-year moving average between 2009 and 2011.
In the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, a collection of global essays, Professor Christine Henseler summarizes it as "a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all."
In cinema, directors Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater and Todd Solondz have been called Generation X filmmakers. Smith is most known for his View Askewniverse films, the flagship film being Clerks, which focused on a pair of bored, twenty-something store clerks in New Jersey circa 1994. Linklater's Slacker similarly explored young adult characters who were more interested in philosophizing than settling with a long-term career and family. Solondz' Welcome to the Dollhouse touched on themes of school bullying, school violence, teen drug use, peer pressure and broken or dysfunctional families, set in a junior high school environment in New Jersey during the early to mid-1990s. While not a member of Generation X himself, director John Hughes has been recognized as having produced films that "understood" Generation X.
Gen Xers were often called the MTV Generation. They experienced the emergence of music videos, new wave music, electronic music, synthpop, glam rock, heavy metal and the spin-off glam metal, punk rock and the spin-off pop punk, alternative rock, grunge, and hip hop.
Compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more apparently heterogeneous generation, openly acknowledging and embracing social diversity in terms of such characteristics as race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen Xers are less likely to idolize leaders and are more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Generation X statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at current age groups: U.S. Census Bureau, in their 2009 Statistical Abstract.
Pursuant to a study by Elwood Carlson on "how different generations respond in unique ways to common problems in some political, social, and consumption choices", the Population Reference Bureau, a private demographic research organization based in Washington, D.C., cited Generation X birth years as falling between 1965-1982. On the first page of the study, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe's definition of a "cohort generation" is cited. They define Generation X by the years 1961 to 1981.
Studies done by Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute challenged the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it.
A report titled Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well? focused on the income of males 30–39 in 2004 (those born April, 1964 – March, 1974). The study was released on May 25, 2007 and emphasized that this generation's men made less (by 12%) than their fathers had at that same age in 1974, thus reversing a historical trend. It concluded that per year increases in household income generated by fathers/sons have slowed (from an average of 0.9% to 0.3%), barely keeping pace with inflation. "Family incomes have risen though (over the period 1947 to 2005) because more women have gone to work, supporting the incomes of men, by adding a second earner to the family. And as with male income, the trend is downward".
Generation Flux is a neologism and psychographic designation coined by Fast Company for American employees who need to make several changes in career throughout their working lives because of the chaotic nature of the job market following the Financial crisis of 2007-08. Societal change has been accelerated by the use of social media, smartphones, mobile computing, and other new technologies. Those in "Generation Flux" have birth years in the ranges of Generation X and Millennials.
According to authors Michael Hais and Morley Winograd, "small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit that Gen Xers embody have become one of the most popular institutions in America. There's been a recent shift in consumer behavior and Gen Xers will join the “idealist generation” in encouraging the celebration of individual effort and business risk-taking. As a result, Xers will spark a renaissance of entrepreneurship in economic life, even as overall confidence in economic institutions declines. Customers, and their needs and wants (including Millennials) will become the North Star for an entire new generation of entrepreneurs".
A 2008 article by The Observer, sister newspaper of The Guardian, cites the Generation X birth years as falling between 1965 and 1982; the same article later describes Generation Y as being born between 1982 and 2002. The writer states that Generation Xers were "labelled by some" as the "'me generation' of the Eighties." Another piece written by a Guardian journalist in 2011 uses 1961 to 1981 for this generation.
The Telegraph cites Generation X birth dates as falling between a longer time span (1965–1985), In 2007, The Independent estimated an earlier range of birth dates (1963–1978) compared to other writers or researchers. However, the newspaper's 2010 article titled "Generation X: A mid-life crisis" uses the 1961 to 1981 date range. The BBC News article about a lack of "mid-career volunteers" in their 20s provides a Generation X age range, which, being written in 2007, would suggest birth years that fall between 1962 and 1982.
The Daily Express article in December 2013 discusses the impact the recession has had on the this generation "born between 1961 and 1981." Despite "a good degree" and desired job skills, "they discovered that there is no job security and everywhere there are cutbacks on staff, salaries and benefits," Jan Etherington writes.
In February 2014, The International Business Times UK reported that top British graduates today were "more likely to be attracted to working independently as a freelancer for multiple companies, than looking for a job for life with one employer." According to Kjetil Olsen of Elance, the company which conducted the study, "the big issue for Generation X (born 1961 and 1981) was the end of a job for life," unlike "today's Generation Y (born 1982 to 1993) who appear to be seriously questioning the nature of having a traditional job at all."
One author, and professor at the University of Toronto, David Foot, divides the generation born after the baby boomers into two groups in his book Boom Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift: Generation X, born between 1960 and 1966; and the "Bust Generation", born between 1967 and 1979. In his opinion, those born between the periods of 1947–1966 were the Baby Boomers, where in Canada they were the largest boom of the industrialized world (relative to population). This large boom complicated the job market for the upcoming generation. However, it is also common in Canada to represent Generation Xers using the date ranges 1961-1981 or 1965-1981.
Australia and New Zealand
A Sydney Morning Herald article defined Generation X as "those born roughly between 1963–1980." The Australian Bureau of Statistics use a 1965-1981 birth range to define Generation X.
Sources in New Zealand, including the country's labour statistics, define Gen X between the years 1965 and 1981. According to a December 2013 article from The New Zealand Herald, a study done by researcher Dr. Kristin Murray of Massey University claims to have "debunked stereotypes about workers of different generations" who are "may have more in common than we may think." She found that though there were cultural differences between those in their twenties and those in their mid-thirties, "those cultural differences weren't reflected in underlying values and motivations." But, she found that Generation X-ers (1965-1981) and Baby Boomers (1946-1964) were "most alike." However, Dr. Murray clarifies that her study "focused on values, so there could still be differences in behavior between age groups." Jason Walker, who is the New Zealand managing director for job recruitment company Hays, disagrees with Dr. Murray's findings. His company's research showed that Generation X members worked their way up the corporate ladder, advancing by learning new job skills. The Baby Boomers were dependent on their employers to take care of them if they worked hard. The "technologically savvy" Generation Y members, on the other hand, were "more risk-taking in their careers" and expected "fast-paced results." If they weren't challenging enough, or if they felt like they were in a dead-end job, they would move on.
The shorter birth year definitions are shorthand for fertility rates. Gen Xers (as a cultural generation) look beyond demographics to define themselves by a shared location in history, common beliefs, attitudes and values (and a common perceived membership). Defining Gen X purely by demographic bulges and busts (like the Census) misses key cultural indicators that a very different set of young people has come along. Commentators who set Millennial birth boundaries starting in the late-70s often make the same assumptions using fertility rates to define birth dates rather than shared beliefs, attitudes and values. Children born in the early 1960s and after had a very different coming of age experience than those born in the late 1950s. Some of the most influential cultural definers of Gen X were born during the period between 1961 and 1964.
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