Generations are mushy sociological constructs that lend themselves to gross generalizations about massive, diverse groups of human beings (not to mention endless TV specials about the 1960s). But man, they are fun to talk about. The Pew Research Center, which is a generally delightful repository of comparisons between age cohorts, has a report today in which Americans answer the ultimate generational conversation starter: In essence, “Why are you so special?”*
Only a bit over half the respondents thought their generation was particularly unique. Of those respondents, 6 percent of the Baby Boomer contingent answered the question "What makes your generation unique?" with, simply, “Baby Boomers.” And that has to be the most meta, most Boomer thing ever uttered by any Boomer.
Oddly, the economy is somewhat absent from these responses, with the exception of those Silent Generation members who invoked World War II and the Depression (for which they are forever entitled to bragging rights). I say "oddly" because the economy of your youth a) really does seem to leave a lasting psychological impression, and b) is something that indisputably links you with millions of other culturally distinct individuals in your age cohort. The same way that you can mark off generations by the popular technologies that you grew up with, you could also divide them by the economic climates that shaped them—the Boomers, for instance, are as much products of the Great Compression and affluent middle-class society of midcentury America, but they apparently prefer to distinguish themselves by their "values/morals" (8 percent) and their "work ethic" (17 percent). Which is why conversations about generations can be so maddening and repetitive, if also kind of addictive.
*Technically, the report is pulling up a survey from 2010.
TODAY IN SLATE
Scalia’s Liberal Streak
The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters
There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?
The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”
The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B
Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey
No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.
The Other Huxtable Effect
Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.