Who: Grew up during the Great Depression and WWII • Either fought in WWII or were children • Behaviours are based on experiences during the Depression and WWII • Wealthiest generation • Men typically worked while women stayed home to raise children • Has largest lobbyist group, AARP •
Population: 55 million • Majority are retirees • Largest voting population •
Characteristics: Behaviours are based on experiences from the Depression • Want to feel needed • Strive for financial security • “Waste not want not” attitude • Conformity • Conservatism • Traditional family values • Strive for comfort • Demand quality • Simplicity • Understands the nobility of sacrifice for the common good • Patriotic • Patience • Team players
At Work: Loyal to employers and expect the same in return • Possess superb interpersonal skills • Enjoy flexible arrangements so they can work on their own schedule • Believe promotions, raises, and recognition should come from job tenure • Measure work ethic on timeliness, productivity, and not drawing attention
Generation Z / Digital Natives (born after 1994)
Who: Also known as Generation M, Net Generation, Internet Generation • Grown up with world, wide, web. (Became available after 1991) • Born during minor fertility boom around US Global Financial Crisis • The children of Generation X •
Population: 23 million and growing •
Characteristics: Highly connected to the use of communications • Like Instant Gratification • Thrive on acceleration and next, next, next • Independent people, lacking a community – oriented nature due to social media • Are very open book with little concern to privacy and personal information. Except for when it comes to money • Thrive on small bits of information. Think in terms of status’s and Twitter language • Under a lot of pressure to succeed •
At Work: Very collaborative and creative • Will have to solve the worst environmental, social and economic problems in history • Will not be team players • Will be more self directed • Will process information at lightning speed • Will be smarter •
Historic Events: 9/11 attacks – 2011 • Great Recession – 2008 to present • Terrorism – these individuals do not remember a time without war • Swine Flu outbreak – 2009 • Hurricane Katrina – 2005 • iPod – 2001 • Facebook – 2004
App Generation or Generation Z
With more than 60 million in the US, this generation is at yet unnamed. But have also been referred to as the Homelanders (grown up under the threat of terrorism), the Plurals (historic diversity) or the Founders (by MTV).
They have no concept of life without the Internet, have billions in buying power and are already shaping our culture. Have grown up totally and utterly connected, there are concerns about their Google-fostered expectations that everything be instantaneous, their inability to tolerate even five seconds of boredom and the demands that come with maintaining several identities online from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat. There is so much pressure on young people, who are still forming their identities, to present a crystallized, idealized identity online.
There is optimism in their entrepreneurial spirit and finding ways to get offline. Their uberprotective Gen X parents, determined not to raise latchkey kids like themselves, are hovering and helping them digitally detox in screen-less camps and Waldorf schools.
There are parallels to the Silent Generation, the doted-on, risk adverse, “nice” generation of kids who grew up during the Great Depression and WWII. Both came of age amid geopolitical turmoil and fears about the economy and schools emphasize a profound sensitivity to other kids. They will be known for being well-behaved and perhaps “blanding” the culture by playing it safe.
Historic Events: Great Depression • WWII • The Cold War • McCarthyism • Started the Civil Rights Movement • Children were “seen, but not heard”.
The Silent Generation is the demographic group of people born from the mid 1920s to the early 1940s. The name was originally applied to people in North America but has been applied as well to those in Western Europe, Australia and South America. It includes most of those who fought during the Korean War. In the United States, the generation was comparatively small because the financial insecurity of the 1930s and the war in the early 1940s caused people to have fewer children.
The generation includes many civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Robert F. Kennedy and writers and artists like Gloria Steinem, Andy Warhol, Clint Eastwood, John Lennon, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix and the Beat Generation, and intellectuals like Noam Chomsky. Time magazine coined the name in a November 5, 1951 article entitled “The Younger Generation,” and the term has remained ever since.
General Thoughts on Social Reputation and Identity
A child’s reputation is largely dependent upon the social status of his or her family.
A child will base his or her identity based on the implications that this reputation has in relation to both peers and adults.
During the Great Depression
Identities for children of this era were not clearly defined due to social ambiguities, which stemmed from economic losses in all social classes. In other words, a family’s economic loss lead to an uncertainty of social status; comparisons of past status versus present status left many children with ambiguous, yet malleable identities.
The sense of “everyone being in the same boat” diminished the distinguishing characteristics of the social classes that had previously existed prior to the Depression.
Characteristics of Children Born During This Era
The generation of this era has generally been found to be ambitious, often seeking achievement, power and status. A need for achievement, status and power increased with higher degrees of economic depravity. Perhaps economic losses that affected a one’s family status left children with an ambitious desire to overcome such losses, leading to a generation of aspirations, goals, and purpose.
This generation has also been found to be patriotic and trusting of the American government. Children growing up around the time of the Depression experienced a sense of trust in the government due to the efforts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945), who’s New Deal programs quickly generated jobs and capital for the American people. Furthermore, this generation came of age during World War II, when patriotism ran high among American Citizens.
The Silent Generation (born 1925-42) today comprises roughly 20 million adults in their 70s and 80s. Their age location in history sandwiches them awkwardly between two better-known generations: They were born just too late to be World War II heroes and just too early to be New Age firebrands. In their personal lives, this age location has been a source of tension. By the time the Silent were entering midlife, they spearheaded the divorce revolution and popularized the term “midlife crisis.” But in their economic lives, this age location has been very good to them—and given them a lifetime ride on the up-escalator coming off the American High.
The Silent started out as the children of crisis. They grew up while older people were fighting wars and making great sacrifices on their behalf. Childrearing in America, already more protective for the G.I.s, approached the point of suffocation.
When the Silent began coming of age after World War II, they tiptoed cautiously in a post-crisis social order that no one wanted to disturb. Unlike the G.I.s, they rarely talked about “changing the system,” but instead about “working within the system.” Because they didn’t want anything to go on their “permanent records” and kept their heads down during the McCarthy era, Time gave them the label “Silent” in a famous 1951 essay.
They were also careful in the labour market. Fortune’s story on the “College Class of ‘49” was subtitled “Taking No Chances.” When they went to job interviews, their first questions were about pension plans. They emulated their powerful G.I. elders by marrying and having babies incredibly young—in fact, younger on average than any other generation in American history.
Unlike the G.I.s, the Silent didn’t have to wait for a depression or war to end. A new “booming” economy was ready to join right out of school. Demographer Richard Easterlin, in his 1980 book Birth and Fortune, called them the “Lucky” or “Fortunate” generation for their great timing. Easterlin noted that a remarkable feature of the Sputnik era was how the typical young man could earn more by age 30 than the average wage for men of all ages in his profess¬ion—and could certainly live better than most “retired” elders. He also noted that since the mid-1970s, the economic conditions facing young late-wave Boomers were becoming much tougher.
At the time, Easterlin hypothesized that the Silent—being small in number due to low birthrates during the 1930s and early ‘40s—benefited from labour markets that bid up their wages in an era when young adults were relatively scarce. Later, as they retired, their small size has certainly helped make their pay-as-you-go Social Security and Medicare benefits seem more affordable.
Yet the arrival of young-adult Gen Xers in the 1980s and ‘90s, who were also small in number but have fared miserably in the economy, throws this explanation into doubt. Numbers helped, but what helped the Silent even more was, again, their timing. Taught to play by the rules, this generation discovered at every age—from the moment they married (at a median age of 21 in 1960) and purchased a house and car (soon thereafter)—that playing by the rules always worked well for them.
As the Silent have aged, their perfect timing has not let them down. Many of them locked in fixed 3% mortgages on their first homes in the 1960s just before inflation hit—giving them decades of negative real interest rates. In the large corporations where so many of them worked, they signed up young for the defined-benefit pension plans their G.I. managers started—the same plans that are now unraveling for Boomers. Their midlife high-savings decades roughly coincided, in 1980s and ‘90s, with perhaps the greatest bull market ever in both stocks and bonds. And after riding this bull, the Silent retired and sold out just before the crash hit. The last Silent cohort reached age 65 in 2007. Bingo.
This is the only living generation that could half-believe, along with Woody Allen, that “80 percent of life is just showing up,” a joke that makes most Xers simply shake their heads.
In terms of national leadership, the Silent—unlike the G.I.s—are not a powerful generation. They redefined leadership as more “maestro” than “macho.” They are the only generation in American history never to occupy the White House. In Presidents, we jumped from George Bush Sr., the World War II veteran, to Baby Boomer Bill Clinton.
Yet they are without doubt the healthiest and most educated generation of elders that ever lived—and, of course, the wealthiest. Coming of age fifty years ago, they quickly amassed more wealth than the seniors of that era. (Back in the early 1960s, the elderly were poorer than young adults by most measures.) In 2010, for the first time, the median net worth of households age 75+ ($228,400) is higher than that of any younger age bracket. Astoundingly, it’s over five times higher than the median net worth of households age 35 to 44 ($44,600).
Given their material good fortune, along with their instinct to help others in need, the Silent as elders have become economic anchors for America’s new renaissance in multigenerational family living. Many routinely pay for extended-family vacations or subsidize their grown Boomer or Xer kids. Many have set up college trust funds for their grandkids—and indeed, a record share have assumed formal custody of them. Most are worried about the economic challenges facing their families—and wonder why success has become so much harder for them.