Here’s which generation you’re part of based on your birth year — and why those distinctions exist


MAY 30, 2023

Generation Z is known for its usage of technology like social media. Daniel de la Hoz/Getty Images

  • In 2019, Pew Research Foundation officially established a generation after millennials, Generation Z.
  • Generation Z includes anyone born between 1997 and 2012.
  • Defining generations helps researchers see how coming of age during certain historical events and technological changes influence the way people see the world.

The only generation officially designated by the US Census Bureau is the baby-boomer generation.

Yet that hasn’t stopped demographers from classifying other cohorts into ranges of birth years. Often this is done to better understand how formative experiences such as world events or technological changes shape the ways people see and interact with the world.

The newest addition to today’s workforce is Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012. The generation was established in 2019 by Pew Research Center, which determined that events like the September 11 terrorist attacks and internet access created enough differences between Generation Z and Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, to constitute a new cohort.

Pew president Michael Dimock wrote that generations are better viewed as a tool for understanding how perspectives and views change — not as strict categories that define who people are.

Older millennials and younger millennials probably feel differently about a number of topics, but most were between ages 5 and 20 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. That means that those attacks and their aftermath loomed large as those people have become adults. Meanwhile, most of Generation Z doesn’t remember the event at all.

The economic recession of 2008 — which came at a time when many millennials were entering the workforce — played a significant role too. At the same time, Generation Z’s only experience with the workforce was through their parents’ eyes.

Technology — like the founding of Facebook in 2004, Instagram in 2010, and TikTok in 2016 — has been a constant and regular force even before some members of Gen Z were born. This access to social and other digital platforms has allowed Gen Z to “see the physical and digital worlds as a seamless continuum of experiences that blend offline and online information for entertainment, commerce, and communication,” according to Insider Intelligence.

Here’s how Pew officially categorizes the generations by birth year at this point in time:

Silent: 1928-1945

Boomers: 1946-1964

Generation X: 1965-1980

Millennials: 1981-1996

Generation Z: 1997-2012

*Generation Alpha has not yet been officially categorized as a generation, but is known as those born after 2012.

The number of birth years that a generation includes can vary. Millennials span a 16-year range, according to Pew. The Gen X cohort was another 16-year group, but the boomers had a 19-year range and the silent generation an 18-year range.

Picking a cutoff year is complicated, of course, as groups change over time.

“[T]he differences within generations can be just as great as the differences across generations, and the youngest and oldest within a commonly defined cohort may feel more in common with bordering generations than the one to which they are assigned,” Dimock wrote.

Yet establishing a cutoff point helps researchers investigate how a group has been shaped by similar experiences.

Different upbringings have contributed to the varying values and social expectations of the different cohorts. For instance, the workplace has been riddled with Gen Z’s recent push for work-life balance and emphasis on mental health, which was ignited at the same time that the oldest Gen Zers entered the workforce amid the global pandemic. Additionally, hobbies-turned-careers such as “influencing” or content creating did not exist as Millennials entered the workforce, yet are highly sought-after opportunities for the youngest generations today.

“We look forward to spending the next few years studying this generation as it enters adulthood,” Dimock wrote of Generation Z, adding that it’s always possible that new data could give researchers a reason to reevaluate these generational boundaries.  “All the while, we’ll keep in mind that generations are a lens through which to understand societal change, rather than a label with which to oversimplify differences between groups.”

Courtesy/Source: Business Insider