Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is a term used to refer to the generation born after the baby boom ended, extending from the early-to-mid 1960s to late 1970s. The term Generation X has been used in demography, the social sciences, and marketing, though it is most often used in popular culture.
In the U.S. Generation X was originally referred to as the “baby bust” generation because of the drop in the birth rate following the baby boom.
In the 1991 book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe call this generation the “13th Generation” and define the birth years as 1961 to 1981 (the lowest birth rate year for this generation was 1971).
Using their methods, it is the 13th generation to know the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin). The label was also chosen because they consider it a “Reactive” or “Nomad” generation, composed of those who were children during a spiritual awakening.
Older generations generally have negative perceptions of Reactive generations—whose members tend to be pragmatic and perceptive, savvy but amoral, more focused on money than on art — and the use of 13 is also intended to associate this perception with the negative connotations of that number.
The authors highlight this negative perception by noting the large number of “devil-child” movies (e.g. Rosemary’s Baby) released soon after the first members were born, compared with more positive movies such as Baby Boom that were released when the first members of Generation Y were being raised.
Individuals considered to be within Generation X were born, and grew up during the later years of, and in the decade following the Vietnam War. They are most often linked to the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Coming of age after the Vietnam War had ended, now in their 30s and 40s, their political experiences and cultural perspective were shaped by the end of the cold war and the fall of the Berlin wall. Growing up in an historical span of relative geopolitical peace for the US, this generation saw the inception of the home computer, the rise of videogames, and the Internet as a tool for social and commercial purposes. Other attributes identified with this demographic are Dot-com businesses, early MTV, Desert Storm, Grunge music and Hip hop culture.
The US Census Bureau cites Generation X as statistically holding the highest education levels when looking at age group.
In economics, a study (the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute) challenged the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it. The study which was released on May 25, 2007, emphasized that in real dollars, this generation’s men made less (by 12%) than their fathers had at that same age in 1974, thus reversing a historical trend. The study also suggests that per year increases in the portion of father/son family household income generated by fathers/sons have slowed (from an average of 0.9% to 0.3%), barely keeping pace with inflation, though increases in overall father/son family household income are progressively higher each year because more women are entering the workplace, contributing to family household income.