The members of America’s newest generation are still in search of a name—author Jean Twenge calls them iGen, because they are the first born after the introduction of the iPhone a decade ago. Whatever moniker sticks, what we already know about these young people is that they are the sixth generation currently making their way in the world, joining the millennials, the Gen Xers, the baby boomers, the silent generation, and those born before the Depression, the greatest generation.
Thanks to once-unimaginable advances in medicine and science, life expectancy has increased dramatically, leading us to this new point in our history. According to Daniel B. Kaplan at Adelphi University, the average human life span gained more years during the 20th century than in all prior millennia combined. That’s very good news. But as President John F. Kennedy once said, “It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to life—our objective must also be to add new life to those years.” To do so means understanding the social and economic effects of this expanding and complex interaction among diverse generations—our topic for this third issue of Trend.
The place to start is with demographics, highlighted in an overview from Oxford University’s Sarah Harper of the key statistics that illustrate the changing nature of the global population.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Here in the U.S., increased life expectancy and multiple generations competing for jobs and workplace advancement can affect economic mobility, financial stability, wage growth, and retirement savings. As Pew’s Erin Currier explains, members of Generation X are in their prime working years—making this generation a leading indicator of the challenges and opportunities that await millennials and the ability of future generations to achieve the American Dream.
Millennials—the first to come of age in the 21st century—are now the largest generation in the United States and, like baby boomers, are changing culture, relationships, buying habits, voting patterns, and how taxpayer dollars are spent. Alec Tyson of the Pew Research Center provides texture and insights on this generation and the wide-ranging influence it is certain to have on its predecessor and successor generations.
So no matter your age, read along and discover how multiple generations have weathered changes, overcome obstacles, and seized opportunities as they forge their futures, find their own identities, and have lasting impact on how we live, work, and shape the world’s destiny together.