While Baby Boomers and Millennials get a lot of press, Generation X is moving to the fore in terms of exerting influence in corporations, politicals, and digital start-ups.
Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, originally got attention because of their critical mass. Born in the wake of World War II, they were one of the largest generations in U.S. history. (The Boomer cohort had 77 million members. Millennials have 83 million. Generation X totals 65 million people.)
Millennials, born from 1978 to 1995, get attention because they are the youngest generation to be fully in the workforce. (Generation Y, born after 1995, has just begun to enter lower-level positions.)
Moving into the Forefront
But Generation X? Members of this cohort, born between 1965 and 1977, never got the same amount of attention. They didn’t have the numbers of the Baby Boomers. Not only that but their young, and even middle adult years, were spent with that larger cohort in positions of power. The Pew Research Center calls Generation X “the neglected ‘middle child'” among the three generations.
However, Generation X will be moving to the forefront for the foreseeable future, while Baby Boomers are gradually replaced. In 2030, for example, Generation X will own more than 30% of the wealth in the U.S. versus roughly 16% for Millennials. That’s more than double what they own now (14%) versus 50% for Baby Boomers and the Millennials at 4%.
They are also entrepreneurial leaders. Generation X saw the 1980s, with its entrepreneurial spirit, up close and personal in its formative years. They took to it. Founders of start-ups backed by venture capitalists are currently Generation X folks, with ages ranging from their late 30s to early 40s.
Right now, members of Generation X establish startups twice as often as Millennials. Their rate of startup generation is climbing as well, while that of Millennials is on the decline.
The majority of managers at U.S. corporations are now Generation Xers, as are congressional leaders like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). While there are plenty of Baby Boomers in Congress, they are matched by 117 Generation X members and just five Millennials.
According to the Pew Research Center, Generation X skews Republican, although Forbes notes that there is, in fact, an intra-generational split. Younger members of Generation X tend to vote Democratic. Older members of the same cohort vote Republican – although the difference is slight.
Generation X Tendencies
What does their ascendancy mean? Generation X in the workplace, according to the Wall Street Journal, tends to be more independent and skeptical than either the generation before it or the generation after. They are entrepreneurial.
Generation X has multiple traits rather than one unifying theme. Not even Generation X members think their generation can be characterized as easily as Baby Boomers (sex, drugs, and rock and roll) or Millennials (digital natives). When asked, they characterize their top three traits as (in order) technology use, work ethic, and conservatism.