Generational Differences: Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Generation Y Comparison

Generations grow up with different beliefs and perspectives.  The conditions of the economy, the state of the world, technology, and social trends all impact the overall behavior of the generation.  For Generation Y, it is a return to traditional values, a strong sense of community and diversity, and an emphasis on technology, information, and education.

Let’s take a look at a comparison between the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1976/1981), and Generation Y (1977/1982-1995/2001).  Please keep in mind these are generalized observations taken from a different article (see below):

Level of trust toward authority

  • Boomers are confident of self, not authority.
  • Gen Xers have a low level of trust toward authority.
  • Millennials have a high level of trust toward authority. Yet they are less trustworthy of individual people. Perhaps it’s from being born into an age of terrorism or maybe it’s their overprotective parents or the danger-obsessed media.

What do they view as the ultimate reward?

  • Boomers want a prestigious title and the corner office.
  • Gen Xers want the freedom not to have to do something.
  • Millennials prefer meaningful work.

How were their parents with them?

  • Boomers had parents who were controlling.
  • Gen Xers parents were distant.
  • Millennials? Their parents were intruding. Or, as my Millennial-age intern tells me, they have “helicopter parents”—they’re always hovering.

What are their views toward having children?

  • Boomers are controlled, their children were planned.
  • Gen Xer’s are doubtful about the possibility of becoming parents.
  • Millennials are definite about parenthood. In fact, they view marriage and parenthood as more important than careers and success.

And overall family life?

  • Boomers were indulged as children.
  • Gen Xers were alienated as children.
  • Millennials were protected as children.

Views toward education?

  • Boomers want freedom of expression.
  • Gen Xers are pragmatic.
  • Millennials need the structure of accountability.

Political orientation

  • Thankfully, boomers want to attack oppression. Without those views we might not have had civil rights or protested Vietnam.
  • Gen Xers are apathetic and more worried about the individual.
  • And the Millennials, the facebookers and Tweeters? It should be no surprise that they crave community.

Last but not least, the views on the big question...

  • Boomers want to know, “What does it mean?”
  • Gen Xers need to know, “Does it work?”
  • Millennials are curious to know, “How do we build it?”

Please read the full post here.


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    • David on 11/17/2010 at 12:17 PM
    • Reply

    I disagree about commentators using 1981 to describe the beginning of the millenial generation. ANYONE can be a millenial if he/she is tech – savvy and open – minded to ALL kinds of diversity. I was born in 1979 and both of these characteristics describe me. Also, I am impatient and want a job that is rewarding and fun rather than one that just pays money (2 more gen y characteristics). Also, MOST of those born in the late 1970s can be described as gen y because studies have shown that they have very similar attitudes to those born in the 80s (they too voted 66 – 32 in favor of Obama). And don’t forget, those born in 1978 just came of age when the web became popular in 1996 – hence the term “net generation”.

    • bob on 02/16/2011 at 1:08 AM
    • Reply

    The Gen X wanting freedom not to have to do something is poorly worded. What Gen X want is the freedom to not have to perform meaningless tasks that lead nowhere.

    Boomers while originally bucking the trend still following societal norms of work and raising a family.

    Gen X truly stood up and said we do not want to perform work tasks for the sake of performing work tasks. Gen X are actually hard workers who will focus on the outcome, not so much the task as boomers did.

    Boomers repeated in lockstep the mindless work tasks over and over, it was Gen X who stood up and said “Let’s stop doing this because no one actually wants it anyhow so why not spend our time on something that’s meaningful”.

    If you really want to understand generation difference, get a hold of “The Fourth Turning”

      • Sabrinna on 03/14/2013 at 10:21 PM
      • Reply

      Yes! This shows little to no understanding of gen x at all. We are highly politically motivated, work absolutely has to be meaningful, we are using fb, twitter, LinkedIn, google+… Many of us are environmentalists, human rights and animal rights activists. We dislike commercialism, restriction of individuality, mind numbing corporate monochrome culture, corporate giant bullying and the complete apathy towards these things from the much larger generations either side of us who keep spouting, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is.’

    • Sean Awong on 05/31/2013 at 12:13 PM
    • Reply

    Retiring Baby Boomers need to develop a substitute community – one that substitutes our work colleagues. Consider getting another job, joining a health club or maybe get involved in a religious group We might want to consider volunteering at a local school or organization.’*’-

    All the best to you

    • Scott on 03/28/2014 at 3:36 AM
    • Reply

    Very good though disagree some on the political orientation of Baby Boomers. Not the description because the most vocal of the Boomers are like that. But I have a sister who didn’t get into drugs, who wasn’t establishment, but definitely was not anti-establishment, and a brother was did drugs, was anti-establishment. There are plenty of people who never bought into that whole 1960’s mindset.

    As for protesting Vietnam and oppression? I am married to someone from China (South China, right next to Laos and Burma). The communists are the oppressors. Laos (speaks basically the same language as Thailand where I have lived since 1997) followed Vietnam and embraced communism. Thai people are much better off today than Lao people. The Vietnamese that fled to the U.S. (I saw many at the university I went to in the midwest) were high-achievers. Vietnam “lost” by winning the war.

    Young people then who are 60 and over now – do they really think they did the right thing in protesting the war?

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