Super bowl Sundaaaaaayyyy!!! And here I am at the U doing some pre-research on generations X Y and Z. I must say I find this kind of stuff far more intriguing than the football machine, but to each their own. It’s a day to hang out with friends, crack open some beers, fire up a grill or dig around in some databases and encyclopedias!  Whatever floats your boat right? Whatever makes your hot dog stand?

I have a Business Comm class that comes in every semester for their library presentation, it goes pretty well, it’s a small group of adult learners. Usually we go over quickly the broad range of services in the library, then I address the different group topics to get them started on their projects. The instructor will let me know beforehand what they are doing, so I can dig around a bit before and know what I expect to find so it’s not a surprise or me struggling to find info in front of about 20 people. But here’s the good part again, I learn something! So now you will too.

Generations. What is a generation? Why do we have labels on generations? What is the purpose of this?

Well let’s see, what we can find. What is the definition of a generation? has many definitions


  1. The entire body of individuals born and living at about the same time
  2. The term of years, roughly 30 among human beings, accepted as the average period between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring.
  3. A group of individuals, most of whom are the same approximate age, having similar ideas, problems, attitudes, etc.
  4. A group of individuals belonging to a specific category at the same time.
  5. A single step in natural descent, as of human beings, animals, or plants.
  6. A form, type, class, etc., of objects existing at the same time and having many similarities or developed from a common model or ancestor (often used in combination): a new generation of anticancer drugs.
  7. The offspring of a certain parent or couple, considered as a step in natural descent.

I kind of like #3 the best when speaking of generations in relation to a group of humans, which I am doing here.

What good is putting people into these groups? Well, it can help you define patterns, see natural progression of attitudes, views, social structures, wardrobes, music, art, economic trends, and the list could go on and on. For some people being a part of a generation could help them better understand their identity, why they have certain views, or what generally defines their age group as a whole. Where do these ideas come from? Do they clash?  YES. With each generation there are gaps and instances where they don’t see eye to eye. This has been happening ever since there has been people. You know the children are our future and all that jazz. Well they are, and where do the children get their beliefs and values from, partially from the generation before them. But really, think about the views your grandparents have (this would be two generations between), are yours similar? Maybe in some aspects, but I’m sure they can be radically different in others. Technology alone in the last couple of decades has been enough to re-wire our minds including our thought processes. So we could think of generations as being partially molded by their predecessors, partially by their environment and peers, but also determined by who people are as individuals and how they view and see the world around them.

Just by initial diggings I can see that there is some differences in opinion on when each generation begins and ends. Some places do it by a year count, but others do it by an approximation that include certain major events. I like the idea of it being a more fluid thing, an approximation based on events and changes in society. Let me see if I can put together something that has approximate years:

What are the primary generations today?

Currently, five generations make up our society. Each of those five generations has an active role in the marketplace. Depending on the specific workplace, the workforce includes four to five generations. Here are the birth years for each generation:

  • iGen, Gen Z or Centennials: Born 1996 and later
  • Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995
  • Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
  • Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before

(Center for Generational Kinetics, 2017)

*From the Center for Generational Kinetics, which actually happens to be a pretty interesting site to check out if you have the time, it explains things pretty well. BUT they are more of a marketing firm that helps corporations understand generations and advertise to them more efficiently, which kind of makes me nervous source wise, but since this isn’t an actual paper I’ll allow it. They may have underlying agenda, something to keep in mind.*

Since I was semi-wary of that source I found another eBook in our collections entitled: Consumer Series: American Generations and How they Live. This seems to also be targeted towards business and marketing, but it’s a book, so I guess I feel a bit better about it. They listed the generations pretty similar to above expect they added a new one:

Recession Generation- After years of stability in the annual number of births, the Great Recession hit. The economic turmoil of the Great Recession caused young adults to postpone marriage and childbearing. The annual number of births fell below 4 million in 2010 as a new baby bust— the Recession Generation— began (Consumer Series, 2013).

They also split the Silent generation into two, the swing and the WWII generations, but we will just keep it as is for now.

What is weird about the year cut-offs is that my parents had me later in life, so we actually skip a generation in my family. Both of my parents are the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation (47) and my Brother and I are towards the start of Gen Y (81 and 84 respectively). Nobody in our family represents Gen X, but this seems to be a rather short generation anyways comparatively. Think about your relationships that cross generations; friends, lovers, family, etc. Do these differences seem apparent, or less so when you get closer in age? I see this a lot with the students that I work with, many of them were born in the late 90’s and at best they don’t get a LOT of the references I pull out sometimes. Then again, they are always teaching me the new slang like 10/10 and lit and showing me the latest memes, so we may just have common ground after all. I introduce them to things like Wayne’s World and Super Nintendo, probably not as impressive, but you know it’s what I got. I actually had a discussion about the Northridge earthquake today which was the last big one I remember and my co-worker was -4 at the time, so it was not a shared experience.

I like what that site says about what makes generations similar:

“Generations exhibit similar characteristics—such as communication, shopping, and motivation preferences—because they experienced similar trends at approximately the same life stage and through similar channels (e.g., online, TV, mobile, etc.)” (Center for Generational Kinetics, 2017).

I often think about that in terms of similarities in senses of humor, eating habits, media consumption and how I relate to my friends. But you really do have to take this into consideration with a grain of salt, you can’t just put people into boxes completely, that’s impossible. But, generational outlines are just that, outlines. Sociology is present because as humans we feel the need to organize and identify groups. That’s all it really is, a study of people in groups, and there will always be exceptions.

The rabbit hole on this one runs pretty deep, so I’ll just end it with an examination of the last two generations, since they are the ones I hang around mostly in so therefore the ones I care about most (Self-centered, I know).

Here are some of Generation Y’s (Millennial) Characteristics:

Beyond their intimate relationship with all things technological, members of Generation Y are characterized by their sense of optimism, pragmatism, and altruism. Trained since grade school to work collaboratively and creatively, this generation enjoys hands-on experiences, networking, community (human and virtual), consensus building, and praise (Jackson & Hogg, 2010).

A sample of generation Z’s (Centennial) Characteristics:

Early indications are that they are increasingly self-aware, self-reliant, innovative and goal-oriented. They also appear to be more pragmatic than their millennial predecessors… One key difference from Millennials: Most members of iGen or Gen Z don’t remember a time before social media. As a result, they tend to live much more of their entire lives—from interacting with friends and family to making major purchases—online and via their smartphones. This could have profound implications for everything from their relationships and how they learn to virtual reality training and problem-solving (Center for Generational Kinetics, 2017).

I had a hard time finding out a good source for characteristics on Z. Something to keep in mind for class next week. Anyways. I hope you enjoyed this edition of random thoughts about things in the world from a reference librarian. Maybe you can discuss generational differences more confidently at your next dinner party, or with your next tinder date, or whoever.




Center for Generational Kinetics. (2017, February). Generational Breakdown: Info About all of the Generations. Retrieved from:

Center for Generational Kinetics. (2017, February). Top 10 Gen Z Questions Answered. Retrieved from:

Consumer Series: American Generations: Who They Are and How They Live (8). (2013). Amityville, US: New Strategist Press, LLC. Retrieved from

Jackson, R. L. & Hogg, M. A. (2010). Generation x and generation y. In Encyclopedia of identity (Vol. 1, pp. 308-311). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412979306.n99


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