Why Generation X Has Lost Hope - OZY | A Modern Media Company

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Things aren't good for most people. But the in-between generation is the most distrustful of the future.

By Joshua Eferighe

  • More Gen Xers are distrustful about the future than any other generation in the U.S.
  • Unlike older generations that are close to or have entered retirement, or younger ones that still have most of their life ahead, Gen Xers are trapped in between, leaving them particularly anxious, say experts.

Everyone’s down. There isn’t a way to package our current reality that will make it more digestible. The coronavirus has claimed more than 750,000 lives worldwide. Experts predict the global economy will shrink by 4 percent (or $3.4 trillion) this year. Oh, and it’s also an election year.

But amid the crisis, there’s one generation that has lost most faith in the prospects of a recovery. It’s not the boomers who’re now in their late 50s or older and are particularly vulnerable amid the pandemic. It isn’t millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Nor is it Gen Z (those born after 1996). According to a study conducted by Salesforce Research, it’s Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980). 

At 33 percent, they are the most distrustful generation in America.

It makes sense, says Joe Grimm, professor at Michigan State University and author of the 2019 book 100 Questions and Answers About Gen X. “They learn early on to be weary,” he tells me. “They started their careers with lower wages, less access to housing markets, then this comes along and opportunities are starting to disappear for them again.” 

Unlike boomers who are close to retirement — or have retired — and millennials and Gen Zers who still have a giant chunk of their future ahead of them, Gen Xers are in the middle of the road and reaching an age when finding jobs only gets harder, say experts.

This coincides with data from Mindshare, a global media agency network, that had a neuroscience team conduct research on how people were subconsciously feeling about the pandemic. They found that people in the 45-54 age group are most likely to associate the future with emotions like dread and unhappiness. Arafel Buzan, co-lead at the Mindshare neuroscience team, says the memory of the last economic downfall is still fresh for Gen Xers, many of whom are still recovering from that crisis.

Not everyone agrees. Cort W. Rudolph, an associate professor of psychology at St. Louis University who has been studying Gen X behavioral patterns for two decades, says he finds that differences between generations are often exaggerated.

Either way, one thing’s clear. The Gen Xers in your life need a hug.

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