Gen Y + Boomers: 2 Sides of Same Coin?

How Magazine
Generationally Speaking

By Tiffany Meyers

In many ways, an assessment of Boomers and their babies/grandkids (or the millions of young Americans known as Generation Y) is an apples-to-oranges prospect. The two groups have come of age in vastly different eras of U.S. history, consuming and creating different cultural touch points.

To compare the two generations, you’d have to compare the space race to MySpace, Earth Day to Green Day, the Mod Squad to the iPod, and so on all the way up to Watergate vs. Monicagate. Perched on (almost) opposite ends of the demographic spectrum, each group brings a unique set of needs to the marketplace as consumers.

All of this makes the traits they do share particularly notable. For one, these groups both live with a rather unflattering reputation for suffering from self-entitlement issues. Also from the Department of Blanket Statements, they’re said to view the future of the world through rose-colored glasses-particularly in comparison to the purportedly nihilistic Generation X that sits between them.

And of course, they’re two highly sought-after consumer sectors.As the two largest generational segments in the U.S., Boomers and members of Generation Y exert tremendous influence over the nation’s social, cultural and political landscape. Wielding formidable power and influence in economic terms as well, they’ve emerged as two of the sweetest spots for marketers pitching all manner of products and services.

The first thing to know about Generation Y is that it possesses more monikers than a demographer’s spreadsheet. In its roughly 30 years of existence, this group has been called Millennials, Reagan Babies, Generation Next, Echo Boomers and iGeneration, to name a few.

Age parameters-and thereby definitive population figures-also depend on who you ask. But if Gen Y is defined as a group of people born between 1978 and 2000, estimates put the population at around 76 million.

That’s comparable to 2005 Census data figures for Boomers-born between 1946 and 1964-who are 78.2 million strong. Often defined as a group of independent-minded, irreverent people born between 1965 and 1977, Generation X-aka the indifferent or invisible generation-is estimated to be only around 48 million in size.Gen Y’s economic impact isn’t so open to interpretation.

According to estimates from Packaged Facts, the publishing division of MarketResearch.com, the purchasing power of 8- to 14-year-olds will increase from $39 billion in 2004 to $43 billion in 2009-and expenditures by 15- to 17-year-olds will increase from $47 billion to $53 billion over the same period.

Factoring in the $502 billion that 18- to 24-year-olds are expected to spend in 2009, expenditures for the entire youth market should reach $555 billion that year…

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