Generation Years Chart | 20th to 21st Century Generations
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Last Updated: September 15, 2020
The generation years chart and timeline describe the 7 recent demographic cohorts stretching way back to the 20th Century. The timeline starts with the Greatest Generation, born early in the 20th Century, and ends with Generation Alpha, a cohort that is born entirely in the 21st Century.
The generations bring together people born in the same age bracket ranging between 13 and 23 years.
While age is an important yardstick in classifying generational cohorts, additional factors help explain the differences and similarities in their attitude and behavior. In particular, the cohorts share collective characteristics and formative experiences in parenting, cultural trends, religious ideologies, political viewpoints, social/economic well-being, and technology.
Technology only became a strong point of reference starting with the Millennial generation. It is the core point of reference today with Generation Alpha and Z cohorts.
The United States, Western Europe, and the rest of the developed world have documented demographic cohorts for many decades. The developing world only began documenting its data due to the global reach of technology.
Generation Years Chart
- The following chart outlines generation names and birth years
- The years for the different generations range from 13 to 23
Generations Years Timeline
This section describes the 7 generational cohorts, their birth years, and characteristics.
1. The Greatest Generation: (1901- 1924)
The Greatest Generation is the first cohort to be documented at the start of the 20th Century. The birth years for the generation lasted between 1901 and 1924 and spanned a period of 23 years.
The men and women born during this period lived through World War I (1914) and World War II (1940), and the Great Depression of 1927-1939. They were considered great because they showed remarkable determination and resilience during the two wars and the Great Depression. They had a passion and willingness to fight for their country because they believed it was the right thing to do.
The iconic journalist, Tom Brokaw coined the ‘generation’ name for this group, a title that became popular after he published a book he called The Greatest Generation.
In the book, he credits the generation for staying vigilant at a time when the world was going through extreme challenges. But somehow, the men and women of the time showed the true meaning of courage, sacrifice, and honor.
Out of the many, he lauded individuals such as Charles Van Gorder (a medical doctor), Senator Daniel Inouye, Martha Settle Putney (a black member of Women’s Army Corps – WAC), and George H. W. Bush (pilot), as part of many people that served their country with vigilance.
Elsewhere, the Greatest Generation cohort is known as the G.I. Generation or the WWII Generation, and in Australia, it is labeled the Federation Generation.
Ronald Reagan (1911), John F Kennedy (1917), and Jimmy Carter (1924) are three other famous American personalities born during the Greatest generation years.
2. The Silent Generation: (1925 – 1945)
The Silent generation was a cohort born between 1925 and 1945 just after WWI and during WWII and lasted for 20 years. The men and women of the Silent Generation years said very little and worked hard, and this contributed to their civic approach to work & lifestyle. A lot about this generation was attributed to the challenges and economic fragility created by the two world wars, and the firm parenting style they went through.
The name Silent Generation was coined by Time Magazine, in a 1951 article titled The Younger Generation. The article slammed this group for lacking ambition and drive. It was branded unimaginative, cautious, and withdrawn. The Great Depression which lasted from 1929 to 1939 and the Dust Bowl, which devastated farmlands in the 30s perhaps contributed to their conditions.
In scathing words, the article notes,
The most startling fact about the younger generation is its silence. With some rare exceptions, youth is nowhere near the rostrum. By comparison with the Flaming Youth of their fathers & mothers, today’s younger generation is a still, small flame. It does not issue manifestoes, make speeches or carry posters.People: THE YOUNGER GENERATION
To be fair to the Silent Generation, it was caught between two very influential generations: the Greatest and the Baby Boomer generations.
Having grown up as children of fighters (Greatest Generation) during the world wars, they were nurtured to be seen rather than heard as the wars raged on. The Baby Boomers who came after them, registered a large number of births and lived through an economic boom like never before. The Boomers practically took over the world as the Silent generation looked on.
In the US in particular, the Silent Generation has had to witness the Boomers monopolize the presidency for decades. While they have had none to their name, Boomer presidents have included George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
Warren Buffet (1930), Joe Bidden (1942), Malcolm X (1925), Marilyn Monroe (1926), Harry Belafonte (1927), and Mohammed Ali (1941), are some of the famous American personalities born during this generation years.
3. The Baby Boomer Generation: (1946 – 1964)
The Baby Boomer birth years fell between 1946 and 1964, spanning an age range of 18 years. WWII had just ended and there was a sense of hope in the US, in particular. The post-war years allowed people to do what they had not during the war. Americans saw a future of prosperity, which encouraged couples to give birth to many children.
The boom lasted approximately 20 years slightly after the last Boomer was born.
The bumper birth rate created a new era of consumerism which helped drive the US economy and created a new breed of rich and mindless individuals.
According to Forbes, the Baby Boomer cohort
became especially well-known for its cultivation of self and its carelessness about material wealth.The Boom Generation
The name Baby Boomer first became popular in 1977, thanks to a Washington Post publication about the future of the world economy. The phrase was used in reference to the boom in childbirth following the return of the American fighters from war and eclipsed other names such as Rock and Roll Generation and Generation Jones.
The Baby Boomer phrase became widely accepted around the world to denote varying opinions and emotions:
- The Chinese through Chairman Mao Zedong used it in the 1960s to encourage conception
- The Germans used ‘babyboomers’ to refer to the upsurge of babies in the 1960s
- The Dutch used ‘de babyboomers’ to point out the beneficiaries of wealth through the 1960s
- The French used ‘les baby-boomers’ to refer to a student generation that rioted in 1968.
- The Italians view the birth years of the 1960s as byproducts of economic boom
Other important events during the Baby Boomer years:
- Apart from bumper births, other notable events such as the Vietnam War and the enaction of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 happened during these years.
- In the US alone, African-Americans make up 10 percent and Hispanics 8 percent of this demographic group. In total, Baby Boomers will account for 20 percent of the American population by 2030.
Popular personalities in this generation years are George W Bush (1946), Steve Jobs (1955), Tony Blair (1953), Princess Diana (1961), Jeff Bezos (1964), Nicholas Cage (1964), Johnny Depp (63), Bill Clinton (1946), Barack Obama (1961), Donald Trump (1946), Bill Gates (1955) and George Clooney (1961).
4. Generation X: (1965 – 1979)
The age range for Generation X lasted only 14 years, between 1965 and 1979. Also called Baby Buster or Gen X, the cohort reversed the baby boom trend which was the hallmark of the previous generation. And similar to the Silent generation, Gen X is unfortunate to be sandwiched between two popular generations: Baby Boomers and Millennials.
The photographer Robert Capa came up with the name Generation X which was used to mean ‘unknown’. The X generation desired, and even today, prefer not to be defined in any manner. The label was further popularized by Douglas Coupland in his 1991 book, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, to tell a story of a group of young men (Gen X) living in their own lost world.
Gen X is also defined by its love for music and art and actually pioneered the pop culture as we know it today. They grew up watching lots of TV and for this, have watched Friends and a host of other popular soaps.
The generation also groomed an increasing number of single-parent homes and continue to record higher divorce numbers than the previous generations, even to the 21st Century. They are independent-minded, educated, informal, casual, entrepreneurial, and are passing on the traits to their children – Z cohort.
It is also known as the last generation to hold dear to its culture and education, and the last to understand the world before technology became the norm.
According to Vanity Fair,
Generation X, the last Americans schooled in the old manner, the last Americans that know how to fold a newspaper, take a joke, and listen to a dirty story without losing their minds.
Following the innovation and distribution of the first lots of microcomputers in the 80s and 90s, Generation X became one of the first to interact with technology. Baby busters however loved the much more and for this, grew up watching Friends and a host of other popular soaps on Television.
Finally, Gen Xers who are well into their 40s and 50s and defined by many cultural histories such as Parental Advisory, are also touted to be the last chance society has to preserve traditional cultural values that are fast becoming extinct.
Famous personalities from this generation years: Jay Z (1969), Tiger Woods (1975), Halle Berry (1966), Julia Roberts (1967), Celine Dione (1968), and Will Smith (1968).
5. Generation Y: (1980 – 1995)
Also called Millennials, the Generation Y cohort was born between 1981 and 1995, stretching for a period of 15 years. Millennials were born at a time when technology was taking initial shape, majorly for productivity.
The use of the internet helped them consolidate their grip on technology, and embrace the wide-ranging possibilities in the 21st Century.
Most Millennials were parented by the Baby Boom generation and were named so because they bore the responsibility and opportunity to fully harness the experiences of technology, at the start of the new millennium. Technology remains critical for driving productivity and has become the tool of choice even at home.
This correlation with the initial years of digital evolution explains why millennials use technology to extend their reach and to venture into global markets. They have used these to drive and shape economies around the world, and continue doing so.
Millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change, giving them a set of priorities and expectations sharply different from previous generations.Who are they?
A large chunk of millennial parents is also renowned for championing a new age of parenting, unlike the Boomers and Xers. Apart from being ethnically and racially diverse, they are more than likely to entertain their children donning wearable gadgets and trying out different forms of AI innovations.
And in a 2018 survey carried out by Go Daddy, 48% of millennial parents deemed it fine for their Alpha children to have an online experience as compared to only 27% of Gen Xers.
Popular figures from this era: Mark Zuckerberg (1984), Taylor Swift (1989), Christina Aguilera (1980), Nicki Minaj (1982), Rihanna (1988) and Beyoncé (1981).
6. Generation Z: (1996 – 2009)
The Generation Z birth years lasted for only 13 years stretching between 1996 and 2009. The Zs are also known as the children of Generation X and are in school up to university during the birth years of Generation Alpha. As of 2025, when the last Alpha will be born, they will make up close to 27 percent of the workforce, according to McCrindle. The Z or iGen, just like the previous generation Y, has immersed itself deep in the world of internet and technology. But unlike their predecessors, they exhibit a sense of euphoria, hoping and determined to avoid past mistakes by earlier generations.
They also approach fancy lifestyles rather passively in comparison to Millennials. For example, they learn to drive late and become sexually active much later in life, they also indulge in alcoholic beverages a little later than the previous generations. These traits have led experts to somehow liken them to the Silent generation of the 1920s to 1940s.
Instead, they spend most of the time planning for their future amidst the tight work conditions around the world.
The huge amount of information at their disposal has also affected their sense of concentration. Hence, they are always multi-tasking and have developed short attention spans. They may seem not to have time for serious stuff at school and at work, but experts presume they are very much goal-oriented and pragmatic.
Popular iGeners: Baby Ariel (2000), Zendaya (1996), and Baby Kaely (2004).
7. Generation Alpha: (2010 – 2025)
Generation Alpha is the latest in the chart of generation cohorts and one that best suits the digital native description. The Alpha cohort brings together people born between 2010 and 2025, adding up to a total of 15 years. The Alpha cohort replaced Generation Z, whose birth years fell between 1996 and 2009. The youngest Z kids were thus born in the first 9 years of the 21st Century.
It is estimated over 2.5 million Alpha kids are delivered weekly in health facilities around the world, and their numbers will reach a whopping 2 billion as of 2025.
The first Alpha kids were born in 2010, the same year the first iPad was released. The iPad kickstarted a tablet war between manufacturers, which has catapulted tablets into the life of Alphas. They are popular tools for collaborative learning, especially in the developed world.
As of 2020, the eldest Alpha child is 10 years old.
Alphas will probably be the most transformative generation ever. This is perhaps because they are born inside a world saturated with tech gadgets and are experiencing first-hand the most transformative trends in technology.
As much as Alpha kids are deeply immersed in touchscreen devices their interaction with technology and the bigger picture of life is changing. The sheer speed of advancement in artificial intelligence means that interaction with the digital ecosystem has to be responsive and prompt, going into the next decades. The Alpha adults will probably never use apps and cell phones the way they are used today.
Lastly, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has impacted their childhood years, in many ways. They spend more time at home, miss out on school, and have to re-evaluate their social development because of social distancing. on a good note, their sense of hygiene is getting a boost since they have learned quite early how to keep clean, sleep better and more, and of course eat nutritious meals.
Fortunately for Alpha children, the COVID-19 is not a serious life threat to them as much as it is for the older Greatest, Silent, Boomer, and X generations.