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Boomers are losing clout to Gen-X'rs



Published: Sat, February 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



I was afraid this day would come.

For years, the culture has been dominated by baby boom-ers, and being one, I've enjoyed the ride. But I just saw the first sign that Generation X has begun to nudge us offstage.

USA Today reported that when Gen-X'rs go on vacation, they spend more per trip than baby boomers -- $2,140 compared to our $2,016.

This means the travel industry -- and other industries -- will start focusing on them more than us, since Gen X'rs have entered their peak spending years while we've passed ours.

Good night, Pepsi Generation.

We still have the biggest numbers. There are 80 million baby boomers compared to 60 million Gen-X'rs. But at age 25 to 40, Gen X is at the prime of life in the eyes of marketers.

Baby boomers are 41 to 59. That doesn't interest advertisers as much. We're said to be more set in our ways when it comes to purchases, so why bother pitching to us?

I used to feel sorry for Gen X'rs because they went through their formative years when disco was high culture.

They were called slackers, but that was probably an unfair rap given them by baby boomers who felt superior because we once protested. I remember '60s icon Abbie Hoffman dissing Gen X by saying college campuses had become "hotbeds of rest."

But you couldn't blame them. They had to worry about getting jobs because the economy was swamped by baby boomers. We so crowded out everyone else they called us the pig in the python.

Fertility issues

God, there were a lot of us. We got our name because all everyone did right after World War II was have babies. In the '50s and early '60s, if a couple only had three kids, everyone thought they had fertility issues.

Even before they named us "baby boomers," we came to assume it would always be about us. It's how we were raised. Our parents wanted to give us things they never had growing up in the Depression, so we were indulged and got used to it. That's how we ended up with the "Me Generation" label. I'm afraid it fit.

So it comes as a shock that we're beginning to get the hook.

At first, I hoped the story about Gen X'rs spending more than us on travel was a fluke. But I did some research and found other evidence of baby-boom decline. For example, marketers have begun to lump us with seniors as part of the "mature" market. I'm pretty sure that, in this context, "mature" means "really old."

I also found an article in the National Law Journal arguing that Gen X is now a dominant part of the jury pool, and should be taken seriously for the following reason: "The oldest among Gen X are ... preparing to take over leadership positions from retiring baby boomers."

The article went on to say that yet another "named" generation is about to help push us off. Many have referred to it as "Generation Y," but the more accepted name these days is the "Net Generation," as in "Internet."

The Law Journal observed: "The oldest net-gens are graduating from college and entering the work force. At roughly 80 million, the net gen rivals the infamous boomers in number."

Infamous? See? Everybody hates us.

I suppose we could try to spend more on vacations to get back on the ins with the marketing world. But that'll be hard since we first have to put the net-gens through college. And after that, since most of us delayed having kids, we'll be on fixed incomes. That is, if Social Security lasts that long.

Like I said, I was afraid this day would come.

X Mark Patinkin is a columnist at The Providence Journal. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.




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