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Feb 27, 2008


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Carol R.

I wouldn't say it's a matter of S & R being "right" or "wrong" - their system is a convenient way to organize historical information around a theme that gives meaning to the information, and I personally find it very helpful and I'm very glad you brought it my attention, Mike. Do I recall correctly that S & R were skeptical that any in the "Silent-Artist" generation would ever be elected President?

Michael W. Kruse

I don't know that they were so much skeptical as they were observing that after a string of G.I. generation presidents from 1961-1993 (Kennedy to Bush I), we went to two Baby Boomer presidents. Time is running out. If McCain doesn't get elected it is likely the last opportunity for the Silent generation.

I think it was more a matter of looking at a trajectory of events with how much time is left for a Silent generation candidate to be elected president. The G.I.s are gone from the scene and no longer there to upstage them as with Bush vs. Dukakis. Plus there seems to be a desire by many or a more conciliatory candidate. Just the script for Silent generation candidate. :)

The Scylding

Intriguing: You might be on to something here - as a Generation 'X-er', I can attest to the concers of the typical "Nomad" generation. I have to think about this one for some time....

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Scylding. Personally, I'm a "cusper" like Obama, meaning born at the transition between two generations. I was born on the Boomer side but find I tend to indentify more with the mindset that S&H would say is relfective of Gen-X.

Glad you found the post engaging.


I'm just wondering if the boomers will have a place in this Obama nation. Will I have to move to Florida or just leave the USA because of my age. I'm getting tired of this old vs young thing. Of feeling left out because I'm old and I'm supposed to go away. Sorry, I'm not "inspired" and it's not giving me much "hope."

Michael W. Kruse

Sorry Joe. We've been voted off the planet. :)

It ain't Obama nation yet. We will see how it all plays out. If S&H are right, we still have another 10-15 years before the Crisis era plays its way out.


The reason S&H are increasingly discredited is because of a fatal flaw in thei methodology: their rigid dependence on 20 year generations doesn't allow for the acceleration of culture which most experts agree has shortened the length of generations to about 12 to 15 years.

To set the record straight, there is a growing consensus in the media, and among experts, that Obama is not a Boomer, nor an Xer, but instead is a member of Generation Jones…the heretofore lost generation between the Boomers and Xers.

Just in the last month or so, several top media outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, and NBC, have all made the argument that Obama is specifically part of Generation Jones. I also heard a panel of generations experts recently on a national radio show discussing this specific issue, and four of the five experts conlcuded that Obama is, in fact, a GenerationJoneser…that his bio and political worldview closely match the GenJones archetype (the one dissenting expert argues that Obama is a Boomer).

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks for info about GenJones, Pollwatcher.

I wouldn't say that this discredits S&H. S&H do not rely on rigid 20 year groupings. The generations they describe over the past centuries generally run from 17-25 years in length, although I believe there was one in the early 19th Century that was thirty years in length. The claim no inevitability for the four cycle generation repetition and indeed show a three cycle instance during the mid-19th Century. They point the persistence of the cycle, not the inevitability.

Furthermore, S&H make allowance for subsegments within generations. They talk about differences between older Boomers and younger Boomers. They point out that people born at the end of the Silent Gen 1940-1943 exhibit some unique characteristics. They also write on about "cuspers," people who are born at the transition between generations, which Obama is by their typology.

Furthermore, S&H have a chart in "Generations" (page 53) that shows the unique characteristics exhibited by the folks born 1961-1964. This cohort scored the lowest on aptitude tests of any cohort in history. Once in their late teens and early twenties they had the highest per capita rates of alcohol consumption, marijuana consumption, arson, robbery, assault, and drunk driving, of any cohort. I was born in '59 and that would make me at the edge of this group. I would be GenJones as proponents broaden this anomaly to include my birth year. I've known of this demographic anomaly for years and rather than GenJones disproving S&H, I suspect it was borrowed from them.

It is possible to segment people according to a variety of issues that don't always line up perfectly with S&H generations, but that doesn't negate the S&H approach, in my estimation. I think it is a useful exploratory lens.


I'm not arguing that S&H's work has no value, just that it's value had been overstated years ago, and is now increasingly viewed as having several major flaws.

When referencing their 20 year generations, I meant more or less 20 years...the real point being that S&H's theory doesn't allow for shorter generations of 12 to 15 years, which so many generation experts believe in these days.

S&H do not argue for a Generation Jones. Arguing for the idea of "cuspers", or for differences between younger and older Boomers, or for '61-'64 cohorts having some unique qualities, does not come close to encapsulating the GenJones concept. Generation Jones is a unique, wholly distinct generation between the Boomers and Xers. Not a small cusp generation that slipped through the cracks, but rather the largest generation today, and in US history. Not somewhat different from older Boomers or younger Xers, but rather a fundamentally different generation than Boomers and Xers, as evidenced in tons of attitudinal and values research which explains why the consumer and political behavior of Jonesers is so differnet than Boomers and Xers.

Yes, S&H's work is a useful exploratory lens, but is dangerous if taken beyond that. The millions of people across the country who have so enthusiastically embraced the Generation Jones movement can attest to that.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks PollWatcher. My background is as a sociologist/demographer/market researcher. I need data to be persuaded. :)

I'll keep an eye out for the data that supports these conclusions.

SM Kovalinsky

Now in the aftermath of March 4 with Hilary in the foreground once again, would you say this is a case of a new order trying to be born, while the old order (Boomer Clinton era) is refusing to die? And what in your opinion will be the outcome of this conflict?

Michael W. Kruse

"...a new order trying to be born, while the old order (Boomer Clinton era) is refusing to die?"

Something like that. If MI and FL are left the way they are, I don't think Hilary has a chance. That doesn't mean she is going to go quietly. I think the Democrats have created a monumental mess for themselves.

In terms of my analysis here, I don't think it matters any more whether Obama acutally wins or not. That this is such a tight situation is evidence enough of this generational "braking" impulse being applied.

What do you think?

Charles Hill

According to the New York Times, Democrats blocked Bush’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reforms so low income people with bad credit could buy houses.
''These two entities -Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, and the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.


Sorry to disagree, but Obama is a boomer, not a member of Generation X --- though he is a the end of the boomer Generation.
His rhetoric about reshaping the world is also very much in the boomer way of thinking.

Michael W. Kruse

Don't be sorry. :-)

As noted, I'm using Strauss and Howe's framework which puts the end of the Baby Boom at 1960.

However, I'll agree with you that his agenda is 1960s Boomer radicalism pure and simple. What he senses is the need to present himself as the consensus builder candidate. That is where I see the generational factor at work.


That is where I see the generational factor at work.

And the MSM.

R. Kirby

Reading all your comments above, it seems like it would be a good idea if you all actually read the two main S&H books before making serious commentary about them. The initial commentary is fairly accurate, indicating that he may have actually read them. From then on it increasingly seems like second-hand stuff, reacting to journalists who wrote something about the books, which is about as useful as journalists are (how about less than zero).

Had you read them, you'd know they postulate that the first cohorts in a generation are usually the MOST extreme. The early boomers (born 1943-1946) are generally the most extreme "world is black and white" people. The early 13th Generation (which you should know was the name they gave the Nomad generation if you read them) are generally the most extreme of the "Gen-X" type also.

However, no way do they say that every individual in a generation is going to be like the generational archetype. They may hate it and be the opposite, they may ignore it and be whatever, but they will be aware of it because of the general behavior of their peers.

So talk about which generation Obama or any individual is in is meaningless compared to how the individual shows himself to be. Obama is definitely in the 13th Gen., and he does show a strong streak of "what works is more important that a principle", which is a prime element of the Nomad archetype. (Though I'm a Boomer I admire that, up to a point.) Beyond that I think he's just his own man (like me). I don't think his agenda is particularly "1960s Boomer radicalism" as someone says above, as much as it's just the typical "A chicken in every pot" stuff that the "Demogogic Party" has always done. I have to keep remembering, since I do like the guy, "it's YOUR chickens they are talking about".

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