Born from the mid 1960’s to 1970’s, Generation X are currently the leaders and business owners of this world. We are also the parents of Gen Z or the Millenial babies – a generation some say may save us from the crimes our own earlier generations – X and Baby Boomers have inflicted upon our world.
William Strauss and Neil Howe, coauthors of ‘Generations’, posit that each generation makes a unique bequest to those that follow and generally seeks to correct the excesses of the previous generation. They argue that the Baby Boomer excess is ideology and that the Generation X reaction to that excess involves an emphasis on pragmatism and effectiveness. Generation X – those born roughly in the 1960’s and 70’s – engender a deep admiration for their generational traits, particularly in the context of current challenges.
Some features of my generation (Generation X) :
- Well, American GenX managed to run up 10 trillion dollars in debt, and not save for their retirement. Greece, Italy, and many other countries – yeah, even worse.
- Generation X also earmarks the standard age for serial killers, who generally are over 30 when they first kill.
- Our house prices are such that now Australians are actually seeking out investment properties going cheap across the U.S.A. When we sell our houses we expect a 300% profit on what we bought them for twenty years ago, but our children can’t afford to buy them, so they’re staying at home for much much longer.
- Today, thanks to the media, we are able to find out about anything. This includes every single criminal act in the vicinity, or across the world. Heck, if we wanted to, I believe that the internet can also provide us with information, hidden deep, on how to commit suicide, how to create a bomb, or how to get together a terrorist cell.
But it’s not all bad. The experiences that shaped those who were teens in the late 70’s and 80’s, translate into valuable contemporary traits and perspectives:
- Our accelerated contact with the real world, for many through a “latch-key” childhood, has made us incredibly resourceful and hard-working. We meet our commitments and take employment seriously.
- Our distrust of institutions grew as we witnessed the lay-offs of the 80’s and has prompted us to value self-reliance. We developed strong survival skills and the ability to handle whatever comes our way with resilience. X’ers instinctively maintain a well-nurtured portfolio of options and networks.
- A sense of alienation from our immediate surroundings as teens (I grew up being shown the threats and consequences of nuclear warfare during the Cold War, and also went through a fuel crisis where we were forced to not use our cars), coupled with rapidly expanding technology, has allowed Generation X’ers to look outward in ways no generation before could or did. We operate comfortably in a global and digital world – in fact, we created most of it. Many of us are avid adopters of the collaborative technology that promises to re-shape how we work and live.
- Our awareness of global issues was shaped in our youth, and we are richly multicultural. We bring a more unconscious acceptance of diversity than any preceding generation. Our formative years followed the civil rights advances of the 1960’s. High divorce rates during our own youths mean we are the first generation to grow up with women in independent authority roles.
- We have a preference for “alternative” and have early experiences in making our own way, meaning we are inclined to innovate. We tend to look for a different (creative) way forward. Our strongest arena of financial success as a generation has been our entrepreneurial achievements (we started off ‘The Apprentice’ and god knows why – but other reality television shows).
- Our skepticism and ability to isolate practical truths have resulted in rich humor and incisive perspective. These help us all redefine issues and question reality.
- Our childhood made us fiercely dedicated to being good parents, prompting us to raise important questions about the way we all balance work with commitments beyond the corporation.
But then again, it’s not all good –
Let’s take a look at crime between the generations.
The older generation likes to tell me that there were not as many kidnappings, the crime was not as bad, and sexual abuse was hardly heard of back in “their time”. I have distant memories of childhood days spent oblivious to the external crimes going on somewhere else. We’ll often tell the Generation Y’s of this world that our childhood was much safer back then.
But really, was it?
According to a study from the Crimes Against Children Research Center, crimes against children and teens have dramatically decreased in the last twenty years.
And yet, I’m frowned on if I suggest my nine year old daughter is safe to be out the front of her garden in a cul de sac full of other children to play with, and no traffic problems. And heaven forbid if I was to suggest she walk alone the 30 metres up the road to the local corner store to buy some milk. Somebody would have the social services out on me for childhood abuse.
Here are a few statistics to go on, providing evidence again that we in Generation X may claim that our generations and those beforehand led much less violent lives, but we’re kidding ourselves –
In my S for Serial Killing post I discussed some statistics on serial killers. These included declines in serial killing found worldwide since the 1990’s, indicating peaks during the 1980’s when early Generation X’ers had reached adulthood. Here’s a copy of one of those charts, showing serial killers by decades (U.S.) –
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics keeps copious graphs and charts on violent crime over the years. This one is of homicides between 1950 and 2005. Source for the data is credited to the FBI. The Bureau says this of the graph –
- Homicide rates recently declined to levels last seen in the late 1960’s
- The homicide rate nearly doubled from the mid 1960’s to the late 1970’s.
- In 1980, it peaked at 10.2 per 100,000 population and subsequently fell off to 7.9 per 100,000 in 1984.
- It rose again in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s to another peak in 1991 of 9.8 per 100,000.
- From 1992 to 2000, the rate declined sharply. Since then, the rate has been stable.
So, it appears that in the 1980’s and 1990’s – the peak decades for my Generation X, the U.S. (and other countries following similar trends) had the most homicides. Since Gen Y reached adulthood, the homicide rate has stabilised and fallen below that of the 1960’s when the Baby Boomers were in their element.
Note that the worst period for homicides in the U.S. was actually the first third of the 20th Century.
At Gene Expression, the writer did a similar study of data towards U.S. Rape statistics over a similar period. They used BJS data again, extrapolated from this page of studies. Gene Expression say this of their graph –
There are only two trends here: an increase from 1963 to 1992, and a decrease afterward. In fact, the two trends look pretty linear on first glance. The slope of the increasing trend is about +1.11, and the slope of the decreasing trend is about -0.85, confirming the hunch that the decline of civilization snowballs more quickly than its restoration proceeds.
As with homicide, Boomers and Gen X-ers cannot complain about rape epidemics in recent generations.
Similar decreases in homicides can be found in other countries. In this graph found at the Australian Government website, the AIC (Australian Institute of Criminology) provides some more proof that violent crimes are dropping (and are below those predicted despite some large blips) as we move into Gen Y and Z.
The Consequences for Gen Y and Z
I belong to the Generation which parents Generation Z – the Internet or Connected Generation. As such, my generation is responsible for producing the most ‘protected‘ generation of children in history – we cotton-wool our children out of fear of some horrendous paedophile, or kidnapping, or accidents, or bullying, or…
As such we may have produced a ‘connected’ generation but those connections are forced into a virtual world. The consequences are that the connected generation is also the children who are overweight from birth generation. They may ultimately be our heroes for this world, but they may not be saving the world using their bodies.
Gen Y teenagers and adults face the world as the most educated generation ever, but they’re inherited a lazy ‘entitlement’ moniker for it. Most of this is undeserved. I discuss Gen Y and Z in my next two posts, ending this series for April.
Citations and References
- Conkuri – Generation X Leaders
- Crimes Against Children Research Center Factsheet
- U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics – Homicide Statistics and Rape Study
- Gene Expression – ‘Your Generation was more Violent‘
- Australian Institute of Criminology – Homicide rates.
- Gen Y and Gen Z are discussed in the next two posts.
- Index to A to Z of Serious Crime posts (April 2012)
This post participated in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Find other worthwhile blogs to read, comment on and follow through the A to Z Challenge blog.