Are Millennials over the Hill that is Adolescence?

Back around the Turn-of-the-Millennia demographers, sociologists, and the like were trying to figure out the Pre-Quarter-Life-crisised demographic of early-twenty somethings. They were a much bigger group than their predecessors, Generation X, and displayed some traits distinct from them as well. I realized the other day that just a few years from now when millennials are mentioned, it will mean an age demographic that is staunchly within it’s 20s and 30s. Full-grown adults.

I’ve read a bit about the generation on the heels of millennials, usually called Generation Z (creative, I know). I haven’t researched this generation yet, thinking of them as Middle School age and younger. But recently the birth year of 1995 popped up as the starting year for Gen Z. Yes, that means college Freshman this year have been identified as Gen Z.

Who is who, and who start where?

At first I felt slightly territorial as the “Youth Culture” demographic has (in my mind) belonged solely to the Millennial generation. And according to other sources, millennials are as young as 13. So why the confusion? The main problem is that the birth years of millenials are still in dispute, which makes it less clear where millennials start, and Gen Z begins. Including all sources, the birth years for millennials are anywhere from 1977 to 2003. I know a very long stretch, right? The years encompass two generally used birth-year spans. PEW Research tends to favor 1977-1997, while Howe & Strauss (also Winograd & Hais) determine that the span is about 1982-2003.

I see merit to both year-spans, which leaves me a bit confused and indecisive. Personally, I usually split the difference (I know very scientific) and start with 1980, and end the date at about 1998. Part of the reason I start with 1980 is because of the starting point of Generaton X. Baby Boomers have had pretty clear span for a long time with the years 1946-64. That means Generation starts at 1965, and to cut off the birth year of this generation at 1976 makes it rather small indeed– only 11 years. Another slap in the face to this generation– no one wants to be identified in the X category (which is actually sort of fitting, don’t you agree?). But I can see traits of people born all the way in 1977 as being “millennial”— it’s why identifying “generations” is such a soft science.

With that said, I generally think of millennials as starting in 1980-1982 (to give GenXers some breathing room). But because the GenX/Millennial is in dispute, it’s created a dispute about the generation after. Now we have these GenZ people to start analyzing. Where to begin? I guess 1995?

Who are these “Z” People??

J. Maureen Henderson wrote an article about Generation Z a few months back with a few points on how millennials and GenZ differs. Some interesting contrasts are that while millennials are much bigger, GenZ seems to have the same level of entitlement issues as millennials. On top of that GenZ is more cautious about money in the light of the economy they have grown up in. So where GenZ lacks size, they seem to be making up with it in entitlement/confidence, and may be more calculating in navigating an uncertain world. A trait millennials desperately missed out on (hello major Quarter-Life crisis, and whine-fests).

Lastly, according to the early analysis of GenZ, they (bizarrely) have similar traits to an Adaptive generation on the Generational Cycles Theory. A quote from the last Adaptive generation (called Silent generation) recently used in the Time article “The Me Me Me Generation” says of Silents: “Youth today has little cynicism, because it never hoped for much.” GenZ could end up having a similar mantra. While Millennials are FOMOing ourselves crazy, and being burdened by our high expectations, GenZ may look up the ladder at us, look around at the world and decide to aim for stability.

Whatever your thoughts on generational theories, one thing I’m sure of is that generations have a way of reacting to the one that came before them. With the dawn of GenZ, it will be interesting to follow how they develop differently (and react to) the biggest generation in US history: millennials.

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20 thoughts on “Are Millennials over the Hill that is Adolescence?

  1. Thanks for this overview on the cut-off years, Rachel. I was born in 1978. Given my “cusp” status I steer clear of calling MYSELF a millennial, lest anyone who believes in the 1980 or 1982 cutoff think of me as a poser. At the same time, I certainly DO NOT feel like a Gen Xer; I don’t relate with their mindset and “get” the millennial way of being better.

    Ah, the “soft science of generations” indeed. Maybe when it comes down to it, it’s not about birth year as much as it’s about perspective. Of course that would only make the “soft science” even softer…

  2. Thank you for this overview on the cut-off years, Rachel. I was born in 1978. Given my “cusp” status, I avoid calling MYSELF a millennial lest anyone who believes in the 1980 or 1982 cutoff think me a poser. That said, I “get” the millennial mind and don’t relate at all with the Gen X mindset. Ah, the “soft science” of generations, indeed.

    Perhaps when it comes down to it, what’s most important is our perspective on the world, not the particular year in which we were born. Although, of course, that would only make the soft science even softer….

    • Thanks for your feedback! My husband was born in ’79 and I definitely see similarities. The transition from GenX to Millennial definitely happens somewhere in the late 70s to early 80s. People now in their 40s are definitely GenX category.

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  6. Gen X and Millennial birth years are not muddled at all and are only muddled if you get your news and culture from Pop-Culture magazines and other sources that have zero credibility and are opinion, not fact based. Right now, we are going through the “I don’t wanna be affiliated with the latter or older part of my Generation” attitude that from what I hear the Boomers went through starting in 1956-57. The Boomers from the 40’s didn’t want to be affiluated with those from the late 50’s to esrly 60’s; enter “Generation Jones”. However, GenJonsers are still Boomers, whose last birth date is officially 1964, or the assassination of Kennedy.

    Generations are defined as the the time it takes for a particular child born in a specific year to reach adulthood, which is 18 years. Boomers are generally from 1946-1964, but the 1st and last year are sometimes, specifically when referring to Harvard, are “cusp’s”, giving those born in 1945 and 1965 the choice of who they wish to be.

    Generation X consistes of those born from 1965-1983, or specific to Harvard, 1964-1984, with those in 1964 and 1984 having the option of “choosing” due to the cusp which was implemented to make it easier, giving every Generation a 20 year span.

    The reason that you believe them to be muddled is due to these “tech geeks” born in 1976-1977 who believe that the invention of the P.C was a cultural overhaul, not realizing that no one other than the super wealthy could afford one until roughly 1996. However, it was the criminality of the Reagan Administration with Reagan being the 1st president EVER convicted of War Crimes and Terrorism by the World Court during the Iran-Contra Crisis that ended Generation X which was exactly 18 years after Kennedy was assassinated.

    Millennials are from 1984-2002 according to CREDIBLE sources used for IMPORTANT statistics, which is eerily, on cultural terms, identical to the end of the Boomers with Kennedy’s assassination and with the exposure of the Iran-Contra Conflict and the mass incarceration of Reagan’s administration. Some use the election of Reagan in 1981 as the GenX cut off and all other Generations are pushed back also to compensate so that there is an 18 year scale, but that is also wrong as the Baby Boom would start too early, and GenX would begin before Kennedy was assassinated, which is why the Harvard model is the most credible and accepted.

    As for non-credible statistics, the last year for Generation X is 1980, which, unless you condone the use of child labor at the age of 15 and believe that 15 years old is an age where girls should start thinking about pregnancy, is wrong. However, this is done for a reason. If you take Generation X and shrink it down to 12-13 years, you make the younger generation, the Millennials, look better off economically by throwing in GenXer’s lack of student debt (as VERY few of us went to college, and a large amount didn’t go to or finished High School), rent controlled apartments, higher hourly wages due to seniority, etc. Statistically, Millennials are, even with tweaked numbers, VERY “stuck in a rut” with debt, low pay, high prices, unemployment, etc. Realky they are MUCH worse off than it appears on paper.

    But the Man will never let them know that. Afterall, we don’t need another mass movement like the Baby Boomer and early Gen X Hippies taking off. They may stop going to college and refuse to work, wandering the land city to city. Colleges are privatized now, and if that were to happen it would be as economically dramatic and dangerous as if people stopped doing Dope, Crank, pills, etc., leaving the prisons empty, only housing a small percentage (HALF a handful) of people in this country that are ACTUAL criminals.

  7. P.s-As someone born at the turn of ’79-’80, and have been around people born 1969-1985 my whole life, I have NEVER heard ANYONE say that they were a Millennial if they were born in 1982 or even 1983.

    I’m shocked that not one womens group has stepped in on these discussions for regarding generation boundries. Afterall, if 1981 or 1982 is a Millennial, than ultimately what ends the generation is women giving birth, or being of acceptable birthing age, to a new generation (Gene-eration; Genetics). I would think they would have wayed in and crushed this propaganda of Gen X tech-nerds wishing to join the Millie geek cult, which is technically seconding the thoughts of depressed and disenfranchised young girls aged 11-15 who truley believe their old enough to take care of themselves and wish to do as they please, that they’re grown enough, in your eyes, to have children because their generation has ended. Obviously you are not for this since your article seems rational and researched.

    Think, how could a Generation end while a teenager is just starting school at 15, not even old enough to legally drop out, which is 16.

    • Yes I’ve always thought millennials were born later, though I’ve heard 1982 as the cut off most often. I think there is a blurring together of late Xers and early millennials, around 1976-1984.

  8. Millennials are those of us that were born anywhere from 1978-1985 aka Generation Nintendo or 90’s kids, anyone born in the years 1995 or 1998 is not a millennial neither a 90’s kid, I don’t know what you are, and frankly I do not much care, but stop hijacking our era… is all I am saying..

    • Agreed, I distinctly remember turning 18 when it turned 2000, and for the first time I heard on the news that night that “millennials” would remember this day forever. And yes, generation Nintendo sums it up perfect for me

  9. Gen X is 1961 to 1984. Thats it. End of discussion. That is a span of 23 years. The averaged out age when most people have babies. Of course there are people who disagree and identify with the older generation or younger generation more but thats a cultural social exposure preference. Millenials start when 1985 does. Technically they are generation Y. The millenial term came in much later. Every generation has their 23 years. The ideas of confused dates for generation X and Y or millenials is a marketing strategy. It has repercussions to say it and repeat and have people buy into it. It helps marketers create an image that is bought into for establishing an identification with certain ideas and products.

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