Within the past five generations (Silent, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z), there have been major changes in ideals and values. Overall, there are a lot of generalizations (some true, some untrue, some biased, etc.), such as assumptions that Baby Boomers are usually conservative while Millennials and Gen Z are usually liberal.
Many of these changes are a direct response to prior generations. Baby Boomers are notoriously known for valuing “hard work,” often causing them to become work-aholics. In response to this dynamic, Millennials became the generation to focus on a “work-life balance.” There have been many studies done on the different generations, including by Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and the University of San Francisco. Some of these studies list Millennials as having been born between 1981-2000, most likely because the older Gen Z are of an adult and voting age (Calfas).
According to The Wall Street Journal, a survey was taken twenty-one years ago by NBC. It indicated that the most important values and principles of Americans were hard work, religion, patriotism and having children. The exact same survey was given to Americans in 2021. The updated survey indicated that the values that are most important to the average American have definitely changed. 80% of the people fifty-five and older said patriotism was very important and only 61% of people in the survey altogether, down 9% from the original survey. Only 435 people placed a high value in having children, which is a decrease of 16% since the first survey in 1998 (Day). These results speak volumes. When taking this study into consideration, along with many other studies done on the comparative nature amongst generations, it becomes evident that the Silent generation and Baby Boomers are more likely to be nationalist or to identify as patriotic. This is not surprising considering the fact that they are the generations that lived during WWII and directly after it.
Generations have also shifted in views on gender equality. Women have made “considerable economic gains,” with only 14% of women being homemakers compared to 43% in 1973. With these results, and by taking a look at the accomplishments of women in the last fifty years, it is obvious that ideals on masculinity and femininity have shifted, and gender norms continue to be challenged.
Every generation comes in under the influences of the generations before it. The influences of prior generations are what also drive each generation to change and evolve old habits and beliefs into new values and ideals. We’ve seen the shift in values between the Silent generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. The next question is, what will we call the generation that follows Gen Z, and how will our influences affect the people they become, the values they share, and the world they live in.
Calfas, Jennifer. “Millennials Want Jobs and Education, Not Marriage and Kids.” Time 24 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2022. https://time.com/4748357/milennials-values-census-report/
Day, Chad. “Americans Have Shifted Dramatically on What Values Matter Most.” The Wall Street Journal 25 August 2019. Retrieved April 23, 2022. https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-have-shifted-dramatically-on-what-values-matter-most-11566738001
“The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (3 November 2011) Retrieved April 24, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2011/11/03/section-1-how-generations-have-changed/.
“How The Last Five Generations Have Changed Us.” Growing Leaders. Retrieved April 23, 2022. https://growingleaders.com/blog/last-five-generations-changed-us/
Princess Raymond is a senior at Marymount Manhattan College, with a double major in Communication Arts & Cinematography, and Media & Emerging Media. Her writing experience includes freelance article writing, poetry, screenwriting, and songwriting.