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Who exactly is Gen Alpha and Gen Z? A guide to the generation names

Gen Z this, boomer that. Here's how to define the different generation names.
Generation z girl friends hanging out together outdoors in the city.
Gen Z girl friends hanging out together outdoors in the city. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

There are plenty of trend pieces about the differences between Gen Z, boomers and more. But what do these terms really mean, and which generation are you?

From millennials to Gen Alpha, each generation comes with its own stereotypes and defining historical events. Whether you’re trying to figure out where you fall or decode an age-specific tweet, this generation names guide can help explain some key aspects of each generation. Just keep in mind, as the Pew Research Center cautions, "generational boundaries are?not?a hard science."

Silent Generation

The Silent Generation was born from 1928 to 1945, according to the Pew Research Center. Its name, first coined in a 1951 Time magazine essay, refers to the widespread parenting of this generation as kids to be “seen and not heard.”

This generation, making up about 7% of the population in 2022, according to the U.S. Census, have often been described as pragmatic and cautious in their approaches to personal finance.

Baby Boomers

Next up is the baby boom generation, born from 1946 to 1964, whose name can be attributed to the spike in births — or “baby boom” — in the U.S. and Europe following World War II. As of 2019, the number of baby boomers in the U.S. was about 71.6 million, according to Pew.

In the past decade, the phrase “OK, Boomer” has gained popularity among teenagers and young adults as a dismissive response to older individuals. These retorts often come in the context of disagreements or criticisms of opinions widely shared among younger generations, such as the severity of climate change, economic hardship or political partisanship.

Gen X

Gen X, or those born from 1965 to 1980, grew up with punk rock, hip-hop and grunge. Some key historical moments that shaped Gen X include the end of the Cold War and the rise of laissez-faire economics under Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Gen X has a relatively small population compared to boomers and millennials and is generally known for being able to maintain a work-life balance.

Millennials

Gen Y, better known as millennials, were born from 1981 to 1996. The generation’s name originates from the fact that the oldest members were reaching adulthood around the turn of the millennium.

The millennial generation is largely known for having faced significant economic hardship throughout its lifetime, dealing with both the Great Recession in the late 2000s and the 2020 recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in the U.S., according to reporting from the Washington Post.

Beyond economic hardship, millennials are also known for adeptness with technology, having witnessed the rapid advancement of technological development from a young age.

Gen Z

Gen Z was born between 1997 and 2012 and is considered the first generation to have largely grown up using the internet, modern technology and social media. Members of Gen Z are sometimes known as zoomers.

Alex Doyle, a 20-year-old Gen Z’er from South Carolina, says she thinks the relationship with technology is what distinguishes Gen Z from the other generations.

“I feel like it’s unique how we know the world before social media but also have seen how it can be useful, whereas the generations before us are more averse to that and Gen Alpha are iPad kids and, like, can’t read,” Doyle said.

Gen Z is also known for a general awareness of social justice and political issues.

Gen Alpha

Gen Alpha is the youngest generation to date, encompassing those born from 2011 to 2024. This generation is known for being digital natives, even more so than Gen Z, having been born into a world that is fully integrated with technology, social media and global connection.

What's next?

The next generation, most likely dubbed Gen Beta, will include children born after 2025 and will be the children of Gen Z.

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