One of the most common questions that I am asked; "When does the generation begin that follows the Millennial Generation?" Some demographers have placed the end of the Millennial generation (today's teens and young adults) as early as 1994. Others suggest somewhere in the middle of the last decade. I think we now have concrete data to support a clearer answer.
Demographers usually place the markers for the beginning and end of generations based on demographic events, not cultural or political events. After all, this is demography, not sociology or political science. The Pew Research Center released a new study yesterday that provides the best candidate I have seen for a demographic event that can serve as a marker between the Millennial generation and the generations following it.
It is possible that this next generation will become known as the Great Recession Generation. Of course, it is too soon to know what label will stick. That will only become known over the next 20 or 30 years. The year 2007 had a record high number of births in America, more than 4.3 million. The next year the birth rate started a downward trend that continues. Provisional data for last year indicates it is down to a little over 4 million.
The simple answer as to why is that mothers and fathers have responded to the bad economy by having fewer babies. But, that may be too simple and explanation. An alternate theory is that the economy is down, in part, because Americans have lost the will to take risks and responsibility for communal relationships (family and civic) and the economic downturn as well as the dropping birth rate are both symptoms of something deeper.
My instinct is that we have arrived at the marker between generations and this new generation (currently three years of age and under) will most likely end being called the Recession Generation, at least initially. I confess my thoughts are much influenced by the multiple reports from economists of all stripes which predict that the Great Recession will last a decade or longer. If the economy somehow pulls out of the current depressed mode in the next two or three years, then the label won't stick. A generation lasts more than a decade and future events could change perceptions.
You can download the full report from the Pew Research Center here. I am interested in hearing other conclusions.