Generation X, often known by its abbreviation “Gen X”, follows the large baby boom generation with about 51 million members. While many reasons are advanced for the smaller birthrate from 1965 until about 1980, some known factors are a declining economy, the continuing trend to smaller families, and the ability of women to choose to defer or even avoid childbearing.
Generation X is the group of Americans born after the generations of baby boomers. It is most commonly referred to as simply “Gen X.” Just as the baby boomers represented a sharp increase in the birthrate, those in Generation X represented a sharp decline. This resulted in some referring to them as the “baby bust” generation. There are about one third fewer members of Generation X than the boomers, at just about 51 million.
Everyone agrees that the Generation X period begins in 1965 when the number of babies being born plunged, but there is no agreement on when their demographic ends exactly. It has been pegged at anywhere from 1977 to 1982 as an endpoint, but the most common point is the beginning of the 1980’s.
So, who pays attention to the Generation X?
Many reasons have been offered for the diminished birthrate of Generation X. The economy simply was not as flourishing as it had been during the baby boom years and it is common for harder times to mean fewer babies.
The children of Generation X were also more likely to have working mothers than in the past. It had become both more socially acceptable and more economically necessary to have two income families than in the past. In addition, options in birth control allowed the parents of Generation X to delay or even avoid childbearing as long as they chose.
Generation X did not experience the same societal and political upheavals as their parents’ generation had seen. The Civil Rights Act had gone a long way toward a fully racially integrated American society and integrated public schools were simply a fact of life for many of them. While the Equal Rights Amendment for women had not passed, many gains toward wage equality had been made, and reproductive rights, although contentious, had changed with the ruling of Roe v. Wade.
There were traumatic and memorable events for Generation X, however. There were attempts to assassinate presidents, although these were unsuccessful. Many of this generation watch in horror from their school desks as the space shuttle Challenger blew up on launch with a teacher aboard. For Generation X, their war was the First Gulf War, which like Vietnam was broadcast pretty much live and in color on the evening news each day.
Education was also important for Generation X as they grew up. Since many new schools were built for their parents’ generation, there were many facilities although some were closed to save costs. Generation X members were also raised with the expectation that most of them would go to college and/or enter high tech fields. It is notable that it was for Generation X women that their numbers receiving doctoral degrees became higher than the number of men receiving them.