Gen X, an introduction

The last two Fridays we have explored the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers. This week, we are taking a look at Gen X, those born between 1965 and1980. Also known as the X’ers, the MTV Generation, Baby Busters, and my personal favorite Thirteeners. Gen X is also referred to as a lost generation, sandwiched in between the two largest generations in American history and close to 20 million less than both of those, they are often overlooked and misconstrued as a group. In 2019 CBSN left them off of a chart defining all living generations. The Twitter responses are 100% on trend for Gen X. They are the original latch-key kids, under-protected by their parents in turn becoming over-protective helicopter parents.

The origin of Gen X’s name isn’t 100% clear. Most people believe that it comes from Douglas Coupland’s novel “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture” published in 1991, although it first appeared as a title of a 1950s Robert Capa photo essay. Rumor had it that Coupland borrowed the term from Billy Idol’s former band Generation X but he has stated that the book’s title came not from Billy Idol’s band, as many supposed, but from the final chapter of a funny sociological book on American class structure titled Class, by Paul Fussell. In his final chapter, Fussell named an “X” category of people who wanted to hop off the merry-go-round of status, money, and social climbing that so often frames modern existence.  It would be ironic indeed if in fact the name came from Capa, since Capa himself was referring to teenagers in the 50s, which is Gen X’s parents.

Size-wise they are significantly smaller than the Boomers and the Millennials peaking in 2018 at 65.8 million. “Beginning in the 1960s, adults didn’t want to have kids anymore. Boomers managed their unwanted pregnancies with the pill, which was approved in 1960, and abortion, which was legalized in 1973. Numerous bar graphs illustrate how these historic events took a bite out of Generation X.” (Jennifer)

When the housing market crashed in 2008, Gen X suffered the most, from 2007 to 2010 the median net worth of Gen X’ers fell by 38%. Although, amazingly, they are the only generation to recover the wealth lost after the crash; their median net worth has risen by 115%.

This article referencing how they are the ultimate wing voters is fascinating: Some 22% of Generation X are immigrants versus 17% of millennials, according to the Pew Research Center. And on some social issues, Gen Xers sit squarely between boomers and millennials on the political spectrum: 55% of Xers support same-sex marriage (compared with 68% of millennials and 48% of boomers); and 64% describe themselves as “patriotic” (versus 75% of boomers and 49% of millennials).The oldest members of Generation X are more likely to have voted Republican throughout their voting lives, while the youngest have been more likely to vote Democrat, says Taylor from the Pew center. Not that they like being labeled. “They have a problem with pollsters, demographers and zeitgeist keepers,” Taylor says. “They’re defined by who came before them and who came after.” (Fottrell)

Generation Xers are individualistic and idealistic. Often referred to as “latchkey kids” in their youth due to their early self-sufficiency, they are now known for thinking like entrepreneurs, thriving in situations where they can be independent thinkers, and expecting work/life balance. Several examples of Gen X entrepreneurs are Elon Musk, Andrew Wilson, Michael Dell, Jack Dorsey, Sara Blakely, and Tom Anderson & Chris DeWolfe just to name a few.


I have enjoyed getting to know Gen X better through this research. In my mind they have always been the cool college kids that seemed so intriguing and mysterious. Next week we will move onto the Millennials, the darling of the media, said tongue in cheek, who by 2025 will comprise 74% of the US labor force.