FEATURE25 January 2024

Changed days: Does generational analysis need a rethink?

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Generational labels have contributed to some of the laziest stereotypes ever perpetuated, and their misuse risks undermining research. Is it time for a rethink? By Katie McQuater.

photograph of person with long hair eating avocado on toast

The avocado-toast guzzling lazy millennial has been usurped by the workshy Gen Z-er who never wants to come into the office, if clickbait headlines are to be believed. Cultural discourse continues to feed off stereotypes and apparent differences between the generations – even if those variations are marginal, or don’t actually exist at all.

In May 2023, American thinktank Pew Research Center announced it would conduct generational analysis only when it has historical data that allows for comparison of generations at similar stages of life. Even then, it would attempt to control for other factors beyond age in making generational comparisons.

Pew had been in the process of rethinking how it approached its analysis of the new adult generation – Gen Z – when a groundswell of criticism over generational research, mainly from academics, started to gain steam.

“People had started to look to us for very specific definitions of generations, such as where does millennial end and Gen Z begin, and ...