Economic Perspective: Generations

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.

MARY WADLEN:

“Today’s program looks at generations. Mike, we often hear about the millenials, baby boomers or Gen X. These are all names for groupings of people called generations. Give us some background on recent generations, and how meaningful the concept is?”

MIKE WALDEN:

“Well, if we look at the last four generations there are the so-called baby boomers. We’re part of that. These are folks that are born between 1946 and ‘65. They were followed by what’s called Generation X; born between 1966 and 1980. Then the millennials, we’ve all heard about the millennials. They’re really taking over the country. They were born between 1981 and 2000. And then finally we have Generation Z, some call them the iGeners, i for internet, born between 2001 and today.”

“Now obviously each of these generations share something. They share their birth period, and the question is do they share other things. Are they going to be similar in their taste, their preferences due to the fact that they grew up at the same time, they went to schools at the same time, they took the jobs that were available at that time, or are these commonalities simply myths, that everyone is going to be determined by their own individual experiences so that over time maybe you initially have these bonds of generations. People doing things the same way because they were born in the same time period, but maybe those bonds tend to weaken over time, and things like gender, race and other categories tend to dominate.”

“So I think this is always an important issue, but we do tend to lump a lot of people together in terms of their birth time. We call that generations. The question is, how important today are those generations.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.

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