Generalizations About Generations

JULY 17, 1995 VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3

Social science researchers have done extensive work on the characteristics of groups of people. Tucson consultant Connie A. Gajewski (of Sky’s the Limit Consulting Group) recently spoke about the results of some of that research.

Gajewski notes that generalizations about generations can be dangerous and can limit the way we interact. At the same time such concepts, if thoughtfully applied, can help us understand the groups and individuals we work with.

Most of the research involves working-age people, so some generalizations about the elderly may be difficult to pin down. Workplace research, however, suggests that we can be divided by age into:

Depression Babies

Born between 1929 and 1940, this group knew hardship and shortages from birth. Not surprisingly, in Gajewski’s words, they “grew up with a strong work ethic, learned to value conformity, accepted delayed gratification and learned clearly defined sex roles.”

“Depression babies” may, as a result, put work ahead of family, see women as subordinates, prefer clear and universal work rules and feel comfortable with traditional promotion systems.

Baby Boomers

The much-maligned and oft-discussed boomers, born between 1940 and 1965, are beginning the second half of their work life. Their upbringing during the 1950s and the Vietnam War years conditioned them to have a less traditional view of life and work than their predecessors.

“Baby Boomers” may push for change, decline to work late (or overtime), want to spend time with family and, in many cases, be in the midst of a mid-career change.

Baby Busters

The youngest working-age group, those born after 1965, are sometimes referred to as “Baby Busters.” They were the first generation of latch-key kids and learned to fend for themselves. According to Gajewski, the fact that they graduated into a bleak job market and rising college costs conditioned them to be cynical or to feel alienated. They are technologically advanced, having had access to computers during their youth.

“Baby Busters” may insist that their work be fun, may be willing to work at home or with flexible hours, are likely to not see their work as an essential component of their identity and to feel that they are not appreciated in the workplace.

These generalizations may be simplistic, but they establish some interesting starting points. What is missing from these observations is a similar set of observations about those born before 1929. Those who care to generalize should send us your observations: we will report on the ad hoc social science research in future installments of Elder Law Issues.

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