Home Concepts Adult Development The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

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Generation X became a hot topic in the nonprofit world when a study found that people born from 1965 to 1980 gave substantially fewer dollars to charity than donors from earlier generations (53% of Xer households donated $25 or more, compared with 75% of Baby Boomers) (Endnote 25). But this is only part of the story. Xers consider donating time and talent to be just as important as providing financial support. They focus their philanthropy in doing small individual acts of kindness without caring if anybody applauds or notices. This type of giving suggests that Xers have a clear perception of how their own contributions make a difference (Endnote 26).

Millennials (Generation Y)

Now age ages 12 to 31, Millennials (also called Generation Y) mostly are children of Baby Boomers but also of Gen Xers. They are the largest generation in US history (80 million) (Endnote 27). Having watched their parents and grandparents grapple with change, Millennials are growing up in a world that is constantly revising and restructuring itself. To them change is normal. The forces that have shaped them include the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, the Columbine Shooting, the Oklahoma City Bombing, September 11, corporate scandals, and the advent of the Internet and many other technological advances. Through it all Millennials are developing an amazing optimism and conviction that the future will be better for everyone—a refreshing alternative to their pessimistic and materialistic Gen Xer predecessors (Endnote 28). Currently the most educated generation in the US, they are confident of their future and consider continuing education and life-long learning mandatory.

Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who tried to be highly involved parents and do everything for their children. This resulted in a generation used to a heavily scheduled and pressured life. Their parents shuttling them from ballet to soccer to flute lessons resulted in the creation of the minivan and the idea of “soccer moms.” Shunning competition and the need for winners and losers in life, Boomers and Xers lobbied for something less judgmental for their Millennial children; they crusaded for the elimination of honor rolls at school and added awards for many types of accomplishments. That’s why Millennials are sometimes called the “Trophy Generation,” or “Trophy Kids,” terms that reflect the trend in competitive sports and many other aspects of life where “no one loses” and everyone gets a “Thanks for Participating” trophy (Endnote 29).

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