Cohort Effects

generationsThe past is a different country. They do things differently there.

~ LP Hartley

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People differ. People’s differences come from variations in DNA, in how they are raised, where they grow up, in their social class and a lot of other factors. People who have something in common tend to share similar cultures and viewpoints. Some of these similarities stem from generational location.

Events that happen during our formative years tend to affect who we are. If you are born under an economic depression or social unrest your worldview will be different from someone born into affluence and relative peace. This is a trait you will tend to share with others who are born during depressions or social unrest. This does not explain everything about you or your peers. It only explains that you both went through the same experiences at roughly the same age and you will both be somewhat shaped by it. That’s all. But this is also why it’s so important to pay attention to patterns of change if we want to understand generations. We need to learn how the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age) influences the Volksgeist (spirit of a people) of a generation and vice versa.

No generational experts have done more to identify this dynamic than William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of Generations (1991) The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997) and Millennials Rising: the Next Great Generation (2000). I have adapted their theory in this generational timeline to depict the last five generations and the age they were born into.

Thank you for reading, and please share your comments!

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