Generation X is the generation of Americans following the baby boomers, generally born between the 1960s and the 1980s. It is sometimes referred to as the 13th generation since the American Revolution. These 80 million people compose the "baby bust" generation in which population growth went down after the spurt of baby boomers. Members of Generation X have been characterized as materialistic, obsessed with financial success and eager to obey the latest fashion trends.
Many deem Generation X as a reactive generation, directly responding to the previous generation of baby boomers who yearned and worked for a just society. Where the previous generation had fought a number of wars including World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Generation X takes a less patriotic stance. In the article "Generation X: Is Its Meaning Understood?," Dominic L. Lasorsa attempts to define Generation X in terms of personalities. Since its inception, Generation X has been perceived negatively: "Generation X has been portrayed as cynical, apathetic, disrespectful losers and slackers." Quoting a survey from Time magazine, Lasorsa writes: "The survey found today's young adult generation should be described as optimistic, savvy, confident, ambitious, determined, independent and materialistic." Douglas Coupland first coined the term in his novel Generation X. The book offered a pessimistic view of Xers as being overly independent, disdainful of tradition and careless about the future.
Members of Generation X are comfortable with technology due to the fact that technology has evolved tremendously since the 1960s. They are also well-educated and good problem-solvers. Though all these descriptions are generalizations, Generation X is a product of its time, embodying the successes and failures of a nation responding to various events. These events include the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the economic recession of the early 1980s, the War on Drugs, the development of home computers and videogames, Desert Storm, the Dot-com bubble, grunge and alternative rock.
The burgeoning realm of information technology fueled Generation X. Xers have mastered the information domain, becoming experts at analyzing facts, organizing information and interpreting events. Sometimes referred to as the MTV generation, Generation Xers are extremely perceptive of the human condition, its desires and weaknesses as illustrated via savvy advertising. Being well-educated and well-informed, an Xer is something of a renaissance man or woman, entertaining a broad knowledge of science, technology, business and law.
Bernard Carl Rosen, author of Masks and Mirrors: Generation X and the Chameleon Personality describes the adaptability and ingenuity of Generation X. Rosen writes: "The cars we buy, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the movies we see and the tunes we dance to are influenced by the work of Xers, who cleverly weave together fabric and fashion, ideas and skills, to produce new goods and services that give concrete form to our fantasies and hopes and dreams. Their skills have made them the newest mandarins of the Information Society." Generation X sets trends they know today's youth will follow.
A number of socioeconomic factors have contributed to the Generation X persona. Most Xers grew up in an environment where both parents worked outside the home. Some 40 percent come from a divorced family or a single-parent home, contributing to their sense of independence and problem-solving skills. The American standard of immediate gratification has been embedded in the Xers' mentality: Devices like remote controls and microwaves promote an obsession with time efficiency. Many of their parents experienced massive corporate layoffs. Xers, therefore, have limited faith in institutions and view the work environment in terms of how best to benefit by it versus how best to contribute to it. Members of Generation X feel a constant need to enhance their skills and learn new things. Due to consistent changes in industry and technology, Xers easily adapt to change and are often impatient. Rosen examines how Generation X simultaneously embraces and rejects change: "Despite their indifference to politics, their preference for pragmatics and contempt for theorizing, their what-does-it-matter attitude, it is characteristic of the Xer generation to want predictability and stability in life."
Generation X is extremely diverse and is, thereby, accepting of diversity, whether cultural, religious, political or sexual. Their views on immigration are somewhat varied. Many are descendants of immigrants and are thereby proud of America's liberal immigration policy. On the other hand, they may feel threatened by immigrants, afraid that they might take over the work force and affect the culture.