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Generation Who: Find out which generation you belong to

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Every generation comes with an identity, and often, stereotypes as well. But are these generational generalizations far? There isn’t really a simple answer, according to UNLV Associate Professor of Sociology Michael Borer.

“We need to make sense of the world, so we put people into boxes,” Borer said. “But, those boxes are often very big and not everyone fits into the box, regardless of how big it is.”

The Pew Research Center categorizes people into generational groups based upon their birth year.

Silent Generation: 1928-1945

Baby Boomers: 1946-1964

Generation X: 1965-1980

Millennials: 1981-1996

Post-Millennials: 1997-

“The categorizations are not hard and fast,” Pew Senior Researcher Richard Fry said. “They’re describing general tendencies of differences.”

Fry explained the generational categories are necessary to help understand how people live through a time of social history, and how a certain generational mark helps describe general tendencies of people in those age groups.

“When they’re giving generations labels, they’re actually trying to account for social change,” Borer said. “Why is this group of people, or this populations different than these other ones?”

High impact economic and social events are often a good measure for group experience, often when the people in that generation were coming of age. A few examples of those events would be the Vietnam War for Baby Boomers and the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and former President Barack Obama’s Inauguration for Millennials.

“I think it’s a valid way to try to understand peoples’ attitudes and behaviors,” Fry said.

The younger generations, being Millennials and Post-Millennials, often are at odds with the older generations.

“There seems to be this common, cultural narrative of what’s wrong with the kids these days,” Borer said.

Some folks in the older generations say the people in the younger generations are too attached to their phones, and that technology has changed the way people interact. The sociology professor agrees that technology has changed the times, but says that’s nothing new.

“Technology has always changed us,” Borer said. “Think about the 1950’s generation, the Baby Boomers, what television did to that generation. It was the first time that we had a look into other people’s living rooms. That was pretty mind-blowing.”

Sarah Arias is currently a freshman at UNLV, and is a Post-Millennial. She, too, agrees that technology goes hand-in-hand with her generation, but asserts that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I hear that we are the laziest generation,” she said. “I feel like we are just in a new era, where technology has sprouted. That’s the reason why we are very different than the other generations.”

Arias takes pride in her generational identity. So does Dennis Neumeyer, who was born on the cusp of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers. He thinks that people in that age group during his time worked harder than they do now.

“I would have rather been a Baby Boomer than a Millennial,” he said. “I think Millennials have it all mixed up. The harder you work, the more money you make.”

That being said, he acknowledges there will always be differences between the different generations.

“Generational gaps will always continue,” Neumeyer said. “They will never go away.”

Then there are people like Cole Randall, a member of the Millennial generation. He says he doesn’t really hold his generational identity close, and thinks others should be careful with pre-judgment based on what generation they’re a part of.

“You could look at my parents and say they are Baby Boomers, but it’s not going to explain very much,” Randall said. “It will explain a broad sense of things, but as far as who the person is for themselves, it’s just a label.”

These are labels that may help describe general tendencies about a group, but they won’t necessarily describe every individual within the group, says Borer.

“We tend to think of generations having these same shared experiences,” Borer said. “We assume that they have the same, shared meanings of them, but that’s just not how life works.”

Comedian Rauce Padgett filmed a comedy sketch regarding generational differences. To watch that video, click here.

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