By Aaron Earls
1996. Bill Clinton is reelected as president. Atlanta hosts the Summer Olympics. And the last millennial is born.
After significant discussion over when the millennial generation ended and the next generation began, Pew Research will now begin classifying millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22-37 in 2018).
Those born after that will be part of a post-millennial generation, frequently known as Generation Z or iGen.
Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research Center, said generational cutoff points “aren’t an exact science,” but neither are the boundaries “arbitrary.”
He says 1996 is a meaningful break between the two youngest adult generations because of several key reasons:
- Millennials were all school-aged when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, it is only a historical event to Generation Z.
- The election of Barack Obama was the first vote cast by many millennials, while the next generation will come of age during the Trump era.
- Millennials entered the workforce during the height of an economic recession, but Generation Z may have an easier time finding a job.
- Millennials came of age during the explosion of the internet, while Generation Z will grow up with ubiquitous social media and Wi-Fi.
Still Dimcock cautions seeing generational divides as thresholds, instead of continuums.
“As has been the case in the past, this means that the differences within generations can be just as great as the differences across generations,” he said, “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.”
Dimcock said generations are complex groups, not caricatures.
He maintained Pew Research would keep in mind “generations are a lens through which to understand societal change, rather than a label with which to oversimplify differences between groups.”
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.