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Saturday, November 29, 2014
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Published: Friday, 1/31/2014

COMMENTARY

Gen-Xers: Take a look at us now

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

“Active, balanced, and happy.”

That was the banner headline of the fall, 2011, Generation X Report, a quarterly research summary based on findings from a long-running survey of 4,000 Gen-Xers.

So much for the mopey and disaffected slacker stereotype attached to us in the early 1990s.

In fact, the survey suggests the opposite of the cliché: My generation, or at least the “large majority” of the group, is pleased and content with our lives so far and functioning rather well as we push into our middle-age.

When asked, “thinking about all aspects of your life, how happy are you?” Gen-Xers in the survey responded with a mean level of happiness of 7.5 with a median (middle score) of 8, based on a rating of 0 to 10 — with zero being very unhappy and 10 being very happy.

Only four percent of Gen-Xers indicated a high level of unhappiness — a score of 3 or lower — while 29 percent offered that they were very happy with a 9 or a 10 in the rating scale.

The Generation X study from Jon. D. Miller at the University of Michigan, which began in 1987 with 5,000 high school students nationwide, helps disprove many of the media-spawned myths about those of us born in the mid-1960s up through and including 1980. (The study uses a two-decade cycle of Gen-Xers beginning in 1961.)

For example, that we’re hopelessly single and pessimistic about marriage, perhaps a byproduct of having spent our formative years in the era of growing divorce rates, which, by the way, peaked in 1980. The study found that two-thirds of Gen-X is married and 71 percent have children. The study also reported that 83 percent of Generation X said “finding the right person to marry and having a happy family life is very important.” This information is corroborated by the the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistic that the national divorce rate has been declining since 1996.

All of these findings and much more can be found in the various quarterly publications of The Generation X Report, available at lsay.org.

And on Sunday in The Blade’s Living and Magazine sections you can read what some local Gen-Xers have to say.

Spurred on by this study and my own curiosity about how others view my generation, I asked a diverse group of eight Gen-Xers — ranging in age from 35 to 46 — 17 questions about our generation. I wasn’t so much interested in uncovering trends — our admittedly tiny sample size is far too small for research purposes — rather in exploring big-picture topics.

For example, What does the term Generation X mean to them? And what about the persistent stereotypes of Gen-Xers as “apathetic slackers, who are moody, cynical, and disengaged?” By the time I received all the responses, I had more than 200 inches worth of material for a Living story with enough space to accommodate 50 inches. You can read the smaller “sample” version in print. But for the complete version, check out the story online at toledoblade.com.

Also, as part of my Gen-X at mid-life contemplation, I cobbled together a list of recognizable milestones to those of us who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a group of more than 30 items divided into four categories: culture, politics, technology, and events:

AIDS and the L.A. Riots. The PC and the Internet. Rap and alternative. The Simpsons and The Late Show with David Letterman. The Challenger disaster and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

That’s just some of the what helped shape, inform, and, in some cases, define Generation X.

They were two decades of disasters and tragedies, triumphs and achievement.

It was an incredible time to come of age.

And as the Generation X Report proved, we’re all the better for it.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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