Don’t know your Generation X from your Generation Z? Our two-minute guide will put you straight.
Demographers and social scientists have divided people born in North America and Europe since the end of the Second World War into cohorts lasting around 15-20 years, and market researchers often use these as a way of thinking about consumer attitudes and behaviour.
The Baby Boomers are the generation born between the end of the war and the early to mid-1960s (there was a sharp increase in birth rates in this period). They have been the beneficiaries of rising economic prosperity and relatively secure employment, generous social provisions in the fields of health, education and pensions, and affordable housing. Nowadays they are often seen as a privileged generation. From a technology perspective, the Baby Boomers can remember black-and-white TV, and most of them finished school before electronic calculators became widespread in the classroom.
Generation X is the cohort born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. By the time they entered the workforce, lifetime employment was no longer the norm, and Generation X has been credited with being more entrepreneurial than the Baby Boomers as a result. They are also seen as more cynical and sceptical of authority and as seeking a better work-life balance than the Baby Boomers. This generation witnessed the emergence of music videos and mobile communications and by the time most of them entered the workforce personal computers were becoming widespread in business.
Generation Y or the Millennial Generation is the cohort born between the early to mid-1980s and the late 1990s. They were entering the workforce as the financial crisis of 2008 struck and their employment prospects have been severely impacted by the recession that followed. They are seen as more socially liberal that earlier generations on issues such as gender definitions and same-sex marriage. Generation Y grew up using personal computers at school and at home, and mobile phones and social media to communicate with their friends.
Generation Z is the cohort born between the late 1990s to early 2010s. The internet was already pervasive when this generation was born and they have used smartphones from a young age. For this reason they are often referred to as Digital Natives. They are now entering the workforce and while their characteristics as adults are not yet fully defined, they are seen as being the most socially aware generation to date and are thought to be good multi-taskers because they are used to the constant interruptions of online life.