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Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western post–World War II baby boom. Demographers, historians and commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.
The term was popularized by Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. It was used in different times and places for various subcultures or countercultures after the 1950s. Gen X describes a generational change from the later Baby Boomer cohort who were born in the late 1950s.
The term "Generation X" was coined by the Magnum photographer Robert Capa in the early 1950s. He used it later as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the Second World War. The project first appeared in "Picture Post" (UK) and "Holiday" (US) in 1953. Describing his intention, Capa said 'We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realised that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with'.
The term was popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles. While Coupland's book helped to popularize the phrase "Generation X," in a 1989 magazine article he erroneously attributed the term to English musician Billy Idol. In fact, Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976–1981, which was named after Deverson and Hamblett's 1965 sociology book Generation X—a copy of which was owned by Idol's mother.
In the U.S., some called Generation Xers the "baby bust" generation because of the drop in the birth rate following the baby boom. The drop in fertility rates in America began in the late 1950s. According to authors and demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe, there are approximately 88.5 million Gen Xers in the U.S. today. 
Generation Xers have cultural perspectives and political experiences that were shaped by a series of events. These include the election of Ronald Reagan, the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the Baby Jessica rescue, Black Monday, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the election of George H.W. Bush, the launch of the Hubble Telescope, the savings and loan crisis, the election of Bill Clinton and the 1990s economic boom, the longest recorded expansion of GDP in the history of the United States.
Generation X experienced the introduction of the personal computer, the start of the video game era, cable television and the Internet. Other events include the AIDS epidemic, the War on Drugs, the Iran hostage crisis, the Persian Gulf War, the Dot-com bubble, grunge, alternative rock and hip hop. They were often called the MTV Generation. Pertinent to a non-partisan study on the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, the Population Reference Bureau, a demographic research organization based in Washington, D.C., cited Generation X birth years as falling between 1965-1982.
In the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, a collection of global essays, Professor Christine Henseler summarizes it as "a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all."
In American cinema, directors Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater and Todd Solondz have been called Generation X filmmakers. Smith is most known for his View Askewniverse films, the flagship film being Clerks, which focused on a pair of bored, twenty-something convenience store clerks in New Jersey circa 1994; Linklater's Slacker similarly explored young adult characters who were more interested in philosophizing than settling with a long-term career and family; Solondz' Welcome to the Dollhouse touched upon themes of school bullying, school violence, teen drug use, peer pressure and broken or dysfunctional families, mostly set in a junior high school environment during the early to mid-1990s.
Compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more heterogeneous generation, exhibiting great variety of diversity in such aspects as race, class, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Change is more the rule for the people of Generation X than the exception. Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen Xers tend to ignore leaders and work for more long term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions.
The U.S. Census Bureau cites Generation X as highly educated, statistically holding the highest education levels when looking at current age groups: U.S. Census Bureau, in their 2009 Statistical Abstract.
In economics, a study (done by Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute) challenged the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it. The study, 'Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?" focuses on the income of males 30-39 in 2004 (those born April, 1964 – March, 1974) and is based on Census/BLS CPS March supplement data.
The study, released on May 25, 2007, emphasized that in real dollars, this generation's men made less (by 12%) than their fathers had at that same age in 1974, thus reversing a historical trend. The study also suggests that per year increases in the portion of father/son family household income generated by fathers/sons have slowed (from an average of 0.9% to 0.3%), barely keeping pace with inflation, though increases in overall father/son family household income are progressively higher each year because more women are entering the workplace, contributing to family household income if they're married or cohabitating.
The 2011 publication "The Generation X Report", based on annual surveys used in the Longitudinal Study of today's adults, finds that Gen Xers, who are defined in the report as people born between 1961 and 1981, are highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family-oriented. The study dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970 and 80s. Various questions and responses from approximately 4,000 people who were surveyed each year from 1987 through 2010 made up the study.
During the 1980s and 1990s, in which Gen Xers would have been teenagers or young adults, the United Kingdom was politically marked by conservative Thatcher-era government followed by the more centrist tenures of John Major (1990–1997) and Tony Blair (1997–2007). Important news topics at that time included the Northern Ireland Peace Process, the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales (1997), and increasing European integration (Maastricht Treaty) and discussion over switching the currency to the Euro.
London newspaper The Guardian cited Generation X birth years as falling between 1965 and 1982 and referred to it as the "'me generation' of the Eighties." The Telegraph cited Generation X birth dates as falling into a longer time span (1965–1985), whilst the The Independent estimated an earlier range of birth dates (1963–1978) compared to other writers or researchers. A BBC News article about a lack of "mid-career volunteers" in their 20s provided a Generation X age range, which, in 2007, would suggest birth years that fall between 1962 and 1982.
One Canadian author, economist and demographer David Foot, divides the generation born after the baby boomers into two groups in his book Boom Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift: Generation X, born between 1960 and 1966; and the "Bust Generation", born between 1967 and 1979. In his opinion, those born between the periods of 1947-1966 were the Baby Boomers, where in Canada they were the largest boom of the industrialized world (relative to population). This large boom complicated the job market for the upcoming generation, Generation X. It is also common in Canada to represent Gen Xers using the date ranges 1961-1981.
In Australia, there is debate over generational birth dates. A Sydney Morning Herald article defined Generation X as "Those born roughly between 1963-1980." However, 1981 is a common "cut-off" date. Many sources, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, use a 1965-1981 birth range to define Generation X.
Like its neighboring country, Australia, sources in New Zealand, including the country's labour statistics, locates Generation X between 1965 and 1981. However, the University of Adelaide's Centre for Learning and Professional Development gave a slightly different range of Generation X birthdates, ranging between 1965 and 1982.
The shorter birth year definitions are shorthand for fertility rates. Gen Xers (as a cultural generation) look beyond demographics to define themselves by a shared location in history, common beliefs, attitudes and values (and a common perceived membership). Defining Gen X purely by demographic bulges and busts (like the Census) misses key cultural indicators that a very different set of young people has come along. Commentators who set Millennial birth boundaries starting in the late-70s often make the same assumptions using fertility rates to define birth dates rather than shared beliefs, attitudes and values. Children born in the early 1960s and after had a very different coming of age experience than those born in the late 1950s. Some of the most influential cultural definers of Gen X were born during the period between 1961 and 1964.
Generation Flux is a neologism and psychographic (not demographic) designation coined by Fast Company for American employees who need to make several changes in career throughout their working lives due to the chaotic nature of the job market following the 2008–2012 global financial crisis. Societal change has been accelerated by the use of social media, smartphones, mobile computing, and other new technologies. Those in "Generation Flux" have birth-years in the range of Generation X and Generation Y.