The generation game
I don’t want to interrupt anyone’s fun, but I thought it might be worth pointing out that as a device for explaining social trends, the idea of a ‘generation’ is almost totally useless*. Nowhere is this more true than when it’s used with reference to ‘baby boomers’.
Among the obvious problems with this concept are the facts that
- Most of the people thought of as archetypal boomers weren’t born during the baby boom (examples: John Lennon 1940-80 and Mick Jagger 1943- )
- Most people born during the baby boom entered the labour force during a period of high youth unemployment and have experienced high rates of unemployment ever since
To satisfy all the standard cliches about baby boomers you would have to be simultaneously over 60 (to be a contemporary of Lennon and Jagger) and under 35 (to be among the last to get a free university education in Australia).
I did a more lengthy analysis of the generation game in the Fin a few years back which I’ll post soon.
* For some limited technical purposes, the related concept of a ‘cohort’ is useful, if handled with care.