Generation Jones is the social cohort of the latter half of the Baby Boomer Generation to the first years of Generation X. The term Generation Jones was first coined by the cultural commentator Jonathan Pontell, who identified the cohort as those born from 1954 to 1965 in the U.S. who were children during Watergate, the oil crisis, and stagflation rather than during the 1960s, but slightly before Gen X.
Unlike "Leading-Edge Boomers," most of Generation Jones did not grow up with World War II veterans as fathers, and for them there was no compulsory military service and no defining political cause, as opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War had been for the older Boomers. Also, by 1955, a majority of U.S. households had at least one television set, and so unlike Leading-Edge Boomers born in the 1940s, many members of Generation Jones (Trailing-Edge Boomers) have never lived in a world without television – similar to how many members of Generation Z (1995–2009) have never lived in a world without personal computers or the internet (which a majority of U.S. households had by 2000 and 2001 respectively), or mobile phones (which a majority of U.S. survey respondents reported having by 2002). The Generation Jones cohort were children during the Sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s but were young adults when herpes and HIV became threats.
The name "Generation Jones" has several connotations, including a large anonymous generation, a "keeping up with the Joneses" competitiveness and the slang word "jones" or "jonesing", meaning a yearning or craving. It is believed[by whom?] that Jonesers inherited an optimistic outlook as children in the 1960s, but were then confronted with a different reality as they entered the workforce during Reaganomics and the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, which ushered in a long period of mass unemployment. De-industrialization arrived full force in the mid-late 1970s and 1980s; wages would be stagnant for decades, and 401Ks replaced pensions, leaving them with a certain unrequited "jonesing" quality for the more prosperous days of the past.
Generation Jones is noted for coming of age after a huge swath of their older brothers and sisters in the earlier portion of the Baby Boomer population had; thus, many note that there was a paucity of resources and privileges available to them that were seemingly abundant to older Boomers. Therefore, there is a certain level of bitterness and "jonesing" for the level of doting and affluence granted to older Boomers but denied to them.
The term has enjoyed some currency in political and cultural commentary, including during the 2008 United States presidential election, where Barack Obama (born 1961) and Sarah Palin (born 1964) were on the presidential tickets.
Cultural, economic and political dimensions
While charismatic leaders like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions of older Boomers to work for — and witness — positive social change, younger Boomers were in preschool or not yet born. Woodstock was a defining moment for older Boomers; younger Boomers have no memories before the Watergate scandal and the cultural cynicism it begat.
Many came of age during the 70s and early 80s. They shared similar pop culture and MTV with Gen X'ers. They were young adults navigating the workforce in the 80s and 90s, but still felt the 2008 economic crisis. This hit them hard because they had to help and advise their older Millennial children while also providing for their younger Gen Z kids.
Generation Jones has been covered and discussed in newspapers and magazines and on TV and radio shows. Pontell has appeared on TV networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and BBC, discussing the cultural, political, and economic implications of this generation's emergence.
In the business world, Generation Jones has become a part of the strategic planning of many companies and industries, particularly in the context of targeting Jonesers through marketing efforts. Carat UK, a European media buying agency, has done extensive research into Generation Jones consumers.
Politically, Generation Jones has emerged as a crucial voting segment in Western elections. In the U.S. 2006 congressional and 2004 presidential elections, and the 2005 U.K. elections, Generation Jones's electoral role was widely described as pivotal by the media and political pollsters. In the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, Generation Jones was again seen as a key electoral segment because of the high degree to which its members were swing voters during the election cycle. Influential journalists, like Clarence Page and Peter Fenn, singled out Generation Jones voters as crucial in the final weeks of the campaign. Numerous studies have been done by political pollsters and publications analyzing the voting behavior of Gen Jonesers. Generation Jones voters are likely to contain the highest proportion of Brexit voters.
The election to the presidency of Barack Obama, born in 1961, plus Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, born 1964, focused more attention on Generation Jones. Many journalists, publications, and experts – including Jonathan Alter (Newsweek), David Brooks (The New York Times) and Karen Tumulty (Time) – have characterized Obama as a member of Generation Jones.
In Pontell's opinion, the cohort shifted left in 2020, which he attributed to Trump’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and Trump’s mocking of Joe Biden’s senior moments. "There are lots of seniors out there that also have senior moments," Pontell says. "They don’t really like the president mocking those one bit."
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