It is usually abbreviated at Gen X, and it is the generation born after the Western post World War II baby boom. Demographers, commentators and historians use the beginning birth dates from the early 1960's to the early 1980's. It was a term that was made popular by Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. It was used in different times for different subcultures or countercultures after the 1950's. Gen X identifies a generational change from the later Baby Boomer cohort who were born in the late 1950's.
In the early 1950's, the term Generation X was coined by the Magnum photographer Robert Capa. He later used it as a title for a photo essay about young men and women that grew up immediately after the Second World War. The first appearance of the project was in “Picture Post (UK) and “Holiday” (US) in 1953. Capa said, “we named this unknown generation, the Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realized that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with.”
In a radio interview Coupland described Generation X as the last child born to the large families that grew directly out of the Second World War. Coupland's book assisting in popularizing the phrase “Generation X” in a 1989 magazine article. He erroneously attributed the term to the English musician Billy Idol. Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976 to 1981, it was named after Deverson and Hamblett's 1965 sociology book Generation X. Billy Idol's mother owned a copy.
Gen Xers were born before, during or after the introduction of digital techologies like Apple's personal computer and Microsoft's operating system. Both companies were founded in the 70's. Gen Xers interacted with computers from an early age and were the onset of the digital revolution, so they have a greater understanding of its concepts. Their cultural perspectives and political experiences were shaped by a series of events that include:
Post Assassination of John F. Kennedy
The Vietnam War
The Election of Ronald Reagan
The 1984 Summer Olympics
The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
The Chernobyl Disaster
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
The End of the Cold War
The Election of G. H. W. Bush
The Launch of the Hubble Telescopy
The Saving and Loans Crisis
The Election of Bill Clinton
The 1990's Economic Boom
The Longest Recorded Expansion of GDP in the History of the United States
Gen Xers experienced the introduction of the personal computer, the beginnings of video game era, cable television, the Internet. Other events include the AIDS epidemic, the War on Drugs, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Persian Gulf War, the Dot.com bubble, alternative rock, new wave music, electronic music, synthpop, glam metal, pop punk, grunge, rap music and hip hop. They were also often referred to as the MTV generation.
Professor Christine Henseler in the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, which is a collection of essays, it is stated that it is “a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance and human rights for all.”
Gen Xers volunteer rates in the US in 2012 was at 29.4% per year, the highest compared with other generations. It was based on a three year moving average between 2009 and 2011. Change is more the rule for Gen Xers, unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen Xer's tend to ignore leaders and work for more long term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer action.
The US Census Bureau says that Gen Xers are highly educated, statistically holding the highest education levels when looking at current age groups. This came from their 2009 Statistical Abstract. In the 2011 publication, the Generation X Report, it was based on annual surveys and it studied today's adults, it found that Gen Xers are highly educated, balanced, happy and family oriented. This study does not show a materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype that is associated with the youth of the 70's and 80's.
Economically, a study conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institute and the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute, challenged the notion that each generation will be better off than the one before it. “Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?” was a study of male incomes between the ages of 30-39 in 2004, (those born between April 1964, and March 1974) it is based on Census and Bureau of Labor Statics CPS March Supplement data. In real dollars this generations men made less (by 12%) than their father had at the same age in 1974, which reversed a historical trend. The study also showed that per year increases in father/sons income have slowed (from an average of 0.9% to 0.3%), which doesn't keep pace with inflation. Father/son family household income are higher each year because more women are entering the workplace, which contributes to family household income if they are married or cohabitating.