Understanding the demographic makeup of British Columbia through its big three generations: the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.

Anyone who’s been to a motivational lecture, passed through the management aisle at the bookstore or kept a steady eye on the business section in the last few years has likely heard of the three major generations. That’s the baby boomers, generation X and generation Y.

 

Exactly what these groups are and how their members differ from one another has been fodder for management consultant types for years. And yet, there is a lot of confusion. There is actually no consensus on exactly who belong to what group, with different researchers in different regions citing all kinds of different definitions.

To help cut through the claptrap, here’s a quick guide to the three generations in B.C.

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Definitions

Because generations are measured differently in different parts of the world, BCBusiness decided to use the definitions of renown Canadian demographer David Foot to define the boomers, Xers and Ys, based on what he calls the baby boom, baby bust and baby boom echo. The descriptions of each cohort are taken from various works by Neil Howe and William Strauss, leaders in American research on the generations.

 

Baby boomers

Born 1947-1966 – 31 per cent of B.C.’s populationThe baby boomers are the children born after the Second World War. They grew up in a booming economy and in a socially conformist culture. Their parents, having gone through the war, shied away from teaching them ideology and instead raised them around personal principles.

As they grew up, the boomers gradually abandoned authority, focusing on self-discovery and fulfillment, leading to the hippie movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Since entering the workforce, they have been the dominant generation, outnumbering any other age group. In B.C. and in many other parts of the word, the retirement of the baby boomers is expected to cause significant labour shortages and social service pressures.

 

Generation X

Born 1967-1979 – 17 per cent of B.C.’s populationGeneration X was born at a time when people were thinking about themselves more than children. Birth rates dipped as the task of raising children was seen as an impediment to self-discovery. Gen X children were more likely to be left to their own devises growing up, with an emphasis on learning self-reliance.

The neglect of generation X in face of the dominant baby boomers can be seen in that there wasn’t even a name to describe them until far into their adulthood. Vancouverite Douglas Coupland coined the term “generation X” in his 1991 novel of the same name.

While the boomers were raised with conformist popular culture, gen Xers participated in a confrontational culture. Their adult years were marked by terms such as “stagflation,” and throughout significant North American recessions they grew increasingly disenchanted with social rules and conventions.

 

Generation Y

Born 1980-1995 – 21 per cent of B.C.’s populationGeneration Y is comprised of the children of the baby boomers, and they are widely know as the most wanted generation in history. Baby boomers, with the benefit of modern sexual education and contraceptives, had kids when they wanted them. As a result, many gen Ys grew up in small, affluent families that placed a high priority on giving children everything they might need.

Growing up, gen Ys were very closely watched, by their parents, their teachers and the media. Gen Ys grew up in a fragmenting popular culture where diversity and self expression was expected. They grew to adulthood largely in booming economies with shrinking populations, and have always been highly valued.

They are known to be more collaborative and optimistic than gen Xers, with a strong sense of their own potential and importance.