16 Crucial Generation X Facts That Will Offer You a New Perspective About The “Lost Generation”
Updated · Sep 28, 2022
Generation X consists of people born after baby boomers and before millennials.
Loosely speaking, that puts them between 1965 and 1980. It’s mainly a Western phenomenon, as this generation was shaped by the economic and cultural factors prevailing in the Western world during the second part of the 20th century.
Today, we’ve gathered some key facts about Generation X that will help you understand how it was shaped as well as how other generations came to be in their response to this one.
We’ll also address the characteristics of people born outside the Western world and see how they differ from those we typically refer to as “Xers.” Finally, we will follow Xers’ influence and impact on the wider context in which we live today.
We’ll start by sharing some:
Essential Generation X Facts (Editor’s Choice):
- Xers are a generation born (approximately) from 1965 to 1980.
- This group of people consists of around 62 million people.
- Elon Musk is perhaps the most successful Gen Xer.
- 20% of Generation X say they love discussing politics.
- Xers were shaped by events such as the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and the Iran crisis of 1979.
- 38% of Generation X mention Bill Clinton as the best US president.
- 45% of Xers say their favorite hobby is watching TV, while 17% name Apple as their favorite brand.
What is Generation X?
A specific generation is shaped by roughly the same geopolitical and economic events, which together contribute to the making of a very vague psychologic-generational type. That’s why we’ll first consider the fundamentals of Gen X:
1. Gen X age ranges approximately from 40 to 60.
(Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)
Simply put, Xers are people born between the mid-1960s and the early-1980s. They are the posterity of the baby boomers who themselves are the post-war children (born between 1946 and 1964, approximately). With boomers rebuilding the nation and helping the post-war economic recovery, the Gen X children had the opportunity to live in a more peaceful and stable world—at least when it comes to the US and Europe.
But who are Gen Xers? We can broadly describe them as the first modern generation—they are the first to get introduced to basically all technologies we have today (or at least their initial prototypes)—TV, computers, the internet, they had the earliest access to it all. Though, we have to point out that the TV still remains by far the most popular and loved medium by Xers.
2. There are around 62 million Gen Xers in the US today.
That’s just an approximation of how many Gen X there are. It’s interesting to note that boomers are equally numerous as Gen X, considering the latter were born earlier. But boomers are called that for a reason—in the post-war period there was a huge baby boom, especially in the US, which led to an immense increase in the country’s natality rates.
However, millennials are the most numerous today, with around 72 million of them in the US. With Gen Xers, we saw a decrease in birth rates compared to the baby boom period. Of course, there are many reasons behind this trend, the most important being the sharp economic rise and the changing culture. Demographers all around the world have noticed that with the increase in quality of life comes the reduction of birth rates (and the increase in the average age people have babies).
More specifically, boomers worked quite a lot and were unable to have such large families as the ones they grew up in. Moreover, it’s important to mention that just because a nation is economically prosperous, this doesn’t mean the cost of life and education is reduced.
Actually, it’s quite the contrary—we’re seeing the exact same trend in modern China—even though the country has one of the world’s strongest economies, people are having fewer and fewer children because it’s harder to finance a modern lifestyle.
3. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are the most famous Generation X entrepreneurs.
Jeff Bezos was born in 1964 and Elon Musk in 1971. Actually, Musk is a Xer par excellence—even though he wasn’t really brought up anywhere in the West (he was born and raised in South Africa), his family was pretty wealthy, leading to him being brought up in a sort of a Western “bubble” while in Africa. Elon Musk’s parents, Errol and Maya Musk, were both industrious people who made their own fortune.
Jeff Bezos might not be considered a Gen X entrepreneur by some but let’s not nitpick here—he’s a Gen Xer and he’s definitely an entrepreneur. Moreover, his parents are typical boomers—at the time little Jeff was born, they were only 17 (mother) and 19 (father) years old, working hard to make ends meet.
Characteristics of Gen X
Each generation has its own, however loose and general, psychological profile. While it’s true that most psychoprofiles are likened to stereotypes, it’s important to remember that some stereotypes exist for a reason:
4. The main trait of Gen X is reactivity.
(Source: Athenaeum; American Psychological Association)
What are the characteristics of a Generation X person? Xers are mostly reactive—as opposed to being idealistic, civic, or adaptive. As a comparison, boomers were the idealists (manifested ultimately by the Hippie movement), while the so-called silent generation (boomers’ parents) were adaptive (for being able to survive the chaotic global conflicts and economic crises).
A scientific article issued in the journal Personality Processes and Individual Differences has found that Gen Xers are regarding extrinsic values (money, fame) as more important, as opposed to baby boomers who place much higher value on intrinsic values (self-acceptance, community).
Moreover, traits of Gen X and millennials show a decline in concern for others and the sense of community, as compared to older generations. In addition, the civic orientation (interest in social problems, interest in government, political participation) also decreases with younger generations. The authors have concluded that the younger generations, including perhaps Gen Xers, too, can be collectively referred to as “Generation Me.”
5. 60% of Gen Xers say they attempt to cut down on their energy use.
(Source: American Psychological Association)
This isn’t exactly a characteristic of Generation X, but rather an attitude. Keep in mind that this data was gathered from the 70s up to 2009, including millions of US participants in a nationally-representative study. In comparison, 68% of boomers and 51% of Millennials have said the same.
In light of the things that have happened since 2009 (increasing awareness of global warming), it is possible that the inclination to save energy increased in all age groups, although the real-world behavior doesn’t always follow the attitude. For instance, Millennials, in spite of being very aware that they will have no future unless they do something about global warming, continue with hyperconsumerism.
6. Only 20% of Gen Xers say they discuss politics.
(Source: American Psychological Association)
This goes in accordance with the reactive or passive nature of Gen X, reported above. They are less expected to question the acts of their government and are more likely to regard politics as something that’s only reserved to powerful people. It is not a coincidence that while the Vietnam war was met with a stern opposition back home (coming mainly from boomer Hippies), Gen Xers mainly watched conflicts like the US Invasion of Grenada (1983) unravel and offered very little opposition. It’s true that even the oldest of Xers were only students during the Invasion of Grenada, but still, one has to remember the student protests against the Vietnam war.
But there’s more evidence that Gen X values are more about “toeing the line” than fighting for the ideals of their parents—the bombing of Lybia in 1986 was met with little opposition. The same is true for all the other wars waged since then—Tanker War (1987), Invasion of Panama (1989), Gulf War (1990), Somali Civilian War (1991, and lasts to this very day), War in Yugoslavia (1992), etc. What does Gen X believe? Unlike their idealistic parents, Gen Xers apparently believe in stability, financial prosperity, and staying within the boundaries of known.
7. 38.6% Gen Xers believe it’s important to keep up to date with political events.
(Source: American Psychological Association)
This is true for 49% of boomers and 34% of Millennials as well. Arguably it’s easier to keep up to date with political affairs than to really discuss politics and take real-world actions, so this fact about Generation X isn’t really in contradiction with the previous one.
8. Gen Xers value balanced lifestyle, challenging tasks and projects, and high ethical standards.
(Source: British Journal of Education and Work)
In a study conducted by the British Journal of Education and Work, a large number of Gen Xers rated these values as important to them. Moreover, they also emphasized the importance of long-term relationships. There are some sex differences within Gen X, with women agreeing more with the values regarding social equality, balanced lifestyle, and the importance of preserving the environment.
Gen X Historical Events
As mentioned before, generations are shaped by different historical events, which in turn determine their psychological profile. Let’s see what defines Generation X and then consider some of the later events which marked the historical period itself:
9. Post WWII economic boom in the US (from 1945 onwards).
(Source: American History; Country Economy)
While their parents grew up in a period of economic recovery, Gen Xers mostly had it all since they were born. In the 1940s, the US GDP was around $200 billion. By the year 1960, it reached $500 billion and in 1975—$1.6 trillion.
The automobile industry, which was already extremely successful in the US, progressed even further in the post-war period. By the time first Gen Xers were old enough to own and drive a car, they were very cheap and available everywhere. The US economy also changed. It shifted from a largely production-oriented one towards providing services with more white-collar jobs with better payment.
Gen X is known for growing up in a period of financial stability. However, they didn’t lose the entrepreneurial spirit of their ancestors.
10. The Cold War and its 1980s unraveling.
(Source: American History)
The silents and boomers lived in a somewhat paranoid world and incessant tensions between the US and USSR. By the time Gen Xers were growing up, these tensions had subsided to a certain extent, especially with the ultimate dissolution of the USSR in 1991. The Berlin Wall had already fallen, and even before, it had been obvious to Americans that the USSR had ceased to be such a threat. In a way, Gen Xers grew up in a US-dominated world.
11. OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and Iran oil crisis in 1979.
(Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)
Major Gen X historical events are tied to oil crises. Most Xers experienced these events as children, which inadvertently shaped their understanding of the global economy. Whereas boomers grew up during the golden age of American culture and economic growth, Generation X experienced numerous oil-related recessions. The 1987 Black Friday stock market crash is also an event worth mentioning here—it increased their self-reliant spirit in the light of the country’s economic instability.
11. 38% of Xers say that Bill Clinton is the best president in their lifetime.
(Source: Pew Research)
Certainly, an interesting Generation X fact is that they seem to like Bill Clinton the most… which in a way goes in accordance with the previous ones about how they grew up in a largely US-dominated world. After all, Clinton is the man establishing this domination after the fall of the USSR.
Unsurprisingly, 34% chose Raegan as the best president, with 9% choosing him as the second-best pick. It has to be mentioned that the Raegan administration is a reflection of the Gen X values, while Bill Clinton is already a more Millennial leader—indeed, 48% of Millennials choose Clinton as their best president.
12. 35% of Gen Xers have college degrees.
If you want what Gen X is known for, here it is—they are among the most educated people in the US. In a comparison, only 19% of Millennials have a college degree.
13. 55% of startup founders are Gen Xers.
(Source: Sage; Bloomberg)
Although it may seem that innovation is the thing of younger generations, there’s the other side of the picture—the numerous successful Gen X entrepreneurs.
One of the most interesting Generation X inventions and/or achievements is most certainly Dell Technologies, founded by Michael Dell. This guy has a typical tech CEO story—interested in technology from a very young age, Dell, being a Gen Xer (born in 1965), also had the opportunity to enter the personal computer business way before most other people.
Daymond John is another extremely successful Gen Xer who contributed a lot to Generation X pop culture—namely, he founded FUBU, the hip-hop clothing brand.
Gen X Interests
We’ve considered the makings of the so-called “slackers,” let’s now turn to their interests, hobbies, and lifestyle:
14. Gen X’s favorite hobby is watching TV.
45% of Xers have listed it as their favorite. Here’s the full list: reading (35%), computer and internet (19%), spending time with family and friends (19%), watching movies (13%), exercising (12%), playing video games (10%), music (9%), and shopping (7%). Perhaps some of these aren’t exactly what you would call typical hobbies (spending time with family?), but it is what it is.
15. Gen X’s favorite brand is Apple (17%).
Apple’s followed by: Amazon (15%), Nike (10%), Samsung (6%), Adidas (5%), Walmart (5%), Coca Cola (4%), Google (3%), Disney (3%), Target (3%), Netflix (2%), and Gucci (2%).
16. Finance movies are a typical Generation X thing.
If you take a closer look, you’ll see that your typical Wall Street movies started to come out in the early 80s and have since become very popular (especially with Gen Xers).
What did Gen X accomplish? Some of the more mundane but still important accomplishments of Gen X are closely tied to the precarious game of the global economy and Wall Street. It is not surprising that a lot of them were fascinated by stories of incredible Wall Street successes (and downfalls) in the environment of global economic uncertainty (oil crises; Black Friday of 1987).
Generation X is sometimes referred to as the “lost generation,” though we can’t agree with that. They are people who grew in a very specific period when political activism, which characterized the boomers, stopped being a thing, but when things like becoming a stock broker or an entrepreneur became alluring to millions of young Americans.
Gen Xers contributed a lot to the world we live in today in a silent way, which is why the “silent generation” is a much fitting nickname here. Hopefully, these facts about Generation X will help you better understand and communicate with them!
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