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Jean Twenge — Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents, and What They Mean for America’s Future

Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents―and What They Mean for America's Future (book cover)

Shermer and Twenge discuss:

  • how data is collected on generations
  • how to untangle the rat’s nest of interacting causal variables (age, gender, race, religion, politics, SES, big events, slow trends, time-period effects, and generational effects)
  • how to determine which direction the causal arrow points (e.g., autonomy to politics or vice versa)
  • how generations are defined as fuzzy sets/conceptual categories
  • comparative method: what about generations in other countries?
  • What about the “Greatest Generation” and the “Lost Generation”? No data?
  • how historical events effect generations: The Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War and its end, AIDS, 9/11, The Great Recession, Covid-19… #metoo, #BLM, trans, AI…?
  • how long-term trends effect generations: economic trends (inflation, unemployment, income inequality), political trends (more conservative or liberal), cultural trends (music, fashion), societal trends (freedom and autonomy vs. safety and security)
  • technology as a driver of generational differences: TV, home appliances, AC, birth control, computers, Internet, social media
  • cyclical theories of generational change
  • slow-life vs. fast-life strategies
  • civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights…
  • abortion and reproductive choice
  • education
  • religion
  • marriage, children, home ownership, sex, birthrates, divorce
  • happiness, meaningfulness and the search for purpose in self and others
  • mental health (depression, anxiety, self-harm, loneliness)
  • alcohol, drugs
  • cancel culture and free speech issues
  • cultures of honor vs. cultures of victimhood
  • self-esteem movement
  • moral progress
  • future generations: economic, political, social, and population trends.

Jean M. Twenge, PhD, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, is the author of more than a hundred scientific publications and several books based on her research, including Generations, iGen, and Generation Me. Her research has been covered in Time, The Atlantic, Newsweek, the New York Times, USA TODAY, and the Washington Post. She has also been featured on Today, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, CBS This Morning, and NPR. She lives in San Diego with her husband and three daughters.

About the Book

The United States is currently home to six generations of people:

  • Silents, born 1925–1945
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946–1964
  • Gen X, born 1965–1979
  • Millennials, born 1980–1994
  • Gen Z, born 1995–2012
  • Polars, born after 2012

They have had vastly different life experiences and thus, one assumes, they must have vastly diverging beliefs and behaviors. But what are those differences, what causes them, and how deep do they actually run?

Professor of psychology and “reigning expert on generational change,” Jean Twenge does a deep dive into a treasure trove of long-running, government-funded surveys and databases to answer these questions. Are we truly defined by major historical events, such as the Great Depression for the Silents and September 11 for Millennials? Or, as Twenge argues, is it the rapid evolution of technology that differentiates the generations?

With her clear-eyed and insightful voice, Twenge explores what the Silents and Boomers want out of the rest of their lives; how Gen X-ers are facing middle age; the ideals of Millennials as parents and in the workplace; and how Gen Z has been changed by COVID, among other fascinating topics.

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on May 9, 2023.

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