Do Generations Exist?

Obviously, there are great-grandfathers and grandkids and people propagate over time.

But people have been sorting and labelling generations since well before the 60s; assigning them stereotypes which tend to exaggerate differences and apply them to very different individuals.

When asked the difference between boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, etc. regardless of artificial definitions, it seems to me every generation basically has different proportions of the same types of people exposed to slightly different social conditions.

Of course I know great coders and tech whizzes in their 50s and younger folks not really interested in politics or the environment.

How useful is this labelling and sorting? I ask because everyone complains about stereotype but most accept big differences exist. And different generations may feel differently about that. The success of the amusing “OK boomer” meme might imply younger people do more sorting and labelling. Or not. Certainly I’ve heard enough criticisms that often seem out of place.

Big differences or just talking?

I don’t think it’s at all useful unless one is using the data for some obscure purpose. A lot of behavior is based on current memes, so of course there is a difference between my parents and me, and between me and my offspring. If you’re exposed to different stimuli, you will probably act differently. But there is so much bleed-over that I don’t believe it to be a very useful tool.

Probably right that they’re really as definitive as horoscopes. But I do think eras of upbringing are relevant indicators of something and do apply occasionally.

Big and useful differences for marketing and policy purposes, I would think.

I would say generations exist in a statistical sense if the underlying stereotypes are justified by real behavior. Individuals define the generation, but the generation does not define its individuals. Just like every other “true” stereotype.


I think its fair.

Generally each generation is more socially tolerant and better with technology than the generation before it.

People’s political views can vary by generation depending on the challenges faced by that generation in their life and their views on which ideology best represents their views and solutions to their problems.

There are also environmental factors. lead exposure, level of education, nutrition status, etc which will have influences on how people of that generation turn out in a general sense.

Within a family they exist. The further you expand to encompass more families, the less it exists.

when you grew up matters some but also when your parents grew up. that may sound like the same thing but my father married late and came from an earlier generation than that of my peers’ parents.

I would have fit in better with the current generation than the one I did grow up in. I would have loved the internet (too much… like I do now) and gotten a lot involved in leftist social activism. (I have thought that Greta Thunberg lives pretty much how I would have envisioned my ideal life back then.) none of the kids I went to school with had any interest. also, so much more acceptance of alternative sexuality. only thing, I hate political correctness now and, if anything, I think I would have hated it even more as a teenager. so I’d have to either break and conform or reject it and rebel (much like now, but intensified).

I see today’s generation as less socially tolerant, at least in the Blue states, just in a different way. or, at least, a vocal minority. they’ve come full circle into their own form of dogmatic fundamentalism and they exert pressure on the moderates to conform.

Just talking. Seriously. You can say “many” and “tend to,” and you may or may not be right, but when you ascribe a characteristic to an entire generation, the label falls apart when I find just one who doesn’t have that characteristic.

So, “Millennials are obsessed with their cell phones,” is inaccurate. You could say “many,” which is vague enough to get by with, or even 'most" if you’ve got the data. But 16% of tU.S. teens don’t even have cell phones. Not all the ones who do are on them constantly.

Between hasty generalization, false authority, and confirmation bias, it’s pretty easy to label an entire generation, but it’s bound to be inaccurate, and it’s definitely not fair.

Pedant point:

Millenials are closer to their 30s than their teens.

Sometimes generations exist; in particular, ‘baby boomer’ seems to be a legit generation; men had been at war; hardship had limited family home economics; when that situation changed, there was a marked rebound, associated with a change in culture as scarcity subsided, economies recovered, people could begin thinking more about leisure and comfort over simple survival - those factors and others had real and somewhat consistent effects on the people born and raised in that span of time.

Without such a broad and severe defining event behind them, other ‘generations’ are fuzzy and possibly spurious.

Wikipedia (for better or worse) gives 1981-1996 as the generally accepted range of birth years for Millenials, so an average millenial was born around 1988/1989. She is closer to her 40s than her teens.

Generations, exist just like race exists. It doesn’t fit every individual in the group and it doesn’t even completely describe its member but for describing large groups of people its a great way to break them down and note the differences. While the difference between a Gen Xer born in 1980 and a Millennial born in 1982 might be minor or nonexistent when talking about life experiences the difference between the average Gen Xer born in 1975 and an average Millennial born in 1991 is pretty huge.

Useful? Not at all really. Too many of us cross the lines and sometimes whole segments throw back to traits earlier generations claimed. But it can be some help to those offering predictions of future trends; as long as they realize just how much of a crap-shoot those predictions are.

I have always puzzled at the desire to pigeonhole people based on “generation.” It leads to generalization fallacies. People are born every year–it’s not like you have a whole generation born in the same year and they become this homogenous cohort until the next generation is born 25 years later. People are not fruit flies. The Baby Boomers are somewhat distinct in that there was a statistical bump over a relatively short period, but that is an exception.

Stereotyping people based on a characteristic they did not choose and cannot change tends to bad outcomes.

On average. The bottom bound for millenials is sometimes given as late as 1996, which would be 23-24 years of age by now.


It is the nature of human cognition, as I understand it. Schema theory and such.

There is a definite utility in making generalizations, especially when you think about friend or foe/fight or flight or other traits from evolutionary biology. Unfortunately this process does lead to fallacious thinking when you guess wrong.


There is often is more variation between people from different socioeconomic and regional groups of the same age than there is between “generations.”

When people talk about a “generation,” they tend to talk about them from a perspective within their own socioeconomic and/or regional group only. You can see that even in this message board, when threads come up and there is clearly no agreement on what being a “millennial,” or whatever, really means.

I’m not a marketer, but I would bet that professionals in that field have more meaningful demo/psychographic metrics than these crude terms, which are really just conceits of lazy journalists who like to throw them out because they have a superficial pop appeal.

nm I mathed wrong