Chapter 1

Why We Stereotype

The first study of generational issues was published in 1953, before any generational labels had been coined. Baby boomers were not even baby boomers at that time. The term baby boom existed to signify instances of peak birth rates, but it did not refer to a generation or group of people. The Coshocton Tribune wrote about a baby boom in post-World War I England in 1920, for example. In December 1941, The Galveston Daily News reported that a baby boom had increased the population of the United States. The term baby boomer referring to those born after World War II in America was first used by Landon Jones in his 1980 book titled Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation.

Therefore, in 1953, when Roger Angell published in Holiday magazine the first study of a generation, titled Youth and the World: USA, still no label had been applied for the young adults they studied: individuals turning 21 in 1953. We now call them the silent generation. The author studied 23 young people from around the world and found that they had very few commonalities. They found no clear pattern or single voice that represented this group. Lacking any clear conclusion or definition, one of the photographers on the story, Robert Capa, called them “The generation X.” (Ulrich & Harris, 2003) And so the first label was born—a label that indicated that no label was justified.

The term was then commandeered by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson (1964) to describe a ...

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