Ranking US Generations On Their Power And Influence Over Society
We’re on the cusp of one of the most impactful generational shifts in history.
As it stands, the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are America’s most wealthy and influential generation. But, as Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang details below, even the youngest Boomers are close to retirement, with millions leaving the workforce every year. As Baby Boomers pass the torch, which generation will take their place as America’s most powerful?
In our inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI) for 2021, we’ve attempted to quantify how much power and influence each generation holds in American society, and what that means for the near future.
Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)
Generation and Power, Defined
Before diving into the results of the first GPI, it’s important to explain how we’ve chosen to define both generations and power.
Here’s the breakdown of how we categorized each generation, along with their age ranges and birth years.
The above age brackets for each generation aren’t universally accepted. However, since our report largely focuses on U.S. data, we went with the most widely cited definitions, used by establishments such as Pew Research Center and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
To measure power, we considered a variety of factors that fell under three main categories:
We’ll dive deeper into each category, and which generations dominated each one, below.
Overall Power, By Generation
Baby Boomers lead the pack when it comes to overall generational power, capturing 38.6%.
While Boomers hold the largest share of power, it’s interesting to note that they only make up 21.8% of the total U.S. population.
Gen X comes in second place, capturing 30.4% of power, while Gen Z ranks last, snagging a mere 3.7%. Gen Alpha has yet to score on the ranking, but keep in mind that the oldest members of this generation will only be eight years old this year—they haven’t even reached double digits yet.
Generational Power: Economics
Considering that Baby Boomers hold nearly 53% of all U.S. household wealth, it makes sense that they dominate when it comes to our measurement of Economic Power.
At 43.4%, the GPI shows that Boomers hold more economic influence than Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z combined. They make up a majority of business leaders in the U.S., and hold 42% of billionaire wealth in America.
Timing plays a role in the economic prosperity of Baby Boomers. They grew up in a post-WWII era, and spent their primary working years in a relatively stable, prosperous economy.
In contrast, Millennials entered the workforce during the Great Recession and have seen only tenuous economic and wage growth, impacting their ability to accumulate wealth. Combine this with crippling amounts of student debt, and it’s no surprise that Millennials have nearly 50% less wealth than other generations (Boomers, Gen X) at a comparable age.
Generational Power: Political
In addition to holding the most Economic Power in the GPI, Baby Boomers also rank number one when it comes to Political Power.
Boomers capture 47.4% of political influence. This generation accounts for 32% of all U.S. voters, and holds the majority of federal and state positions. For instance, 68% of U.S. senators are Baby Boomers.
Political spending on election campaigns and lobbying predominantly comes from Boomers, too. When it comes to money spent on lobbying, we found that 60% of the top 20 spenders were from organizations led by Baby Boomers.
In contrast, Millennials and Gen Zers barely make a splash in the political realm. That said, in the coming years, it’s estimated that the combined voting power of Millennials and Gen Z will see immense growth, rising from 32% of voters in 2020 up to 55% by 2036.
There is one category where other generations gave Boomers a run for their money, which is in Cultural Power.
In this category, it’s actually Gen X that leads the pack, capturing 36.0% of Cultural Power. Gen X is especially dominant in press and news media—over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and a majority of the most influential news personalities are also members of Gen X.
Despite a strong showing in our culture category, Gen X falls short in one key variable we looked at—the digital realm. On digital platforms, Millennials dominate when it comes to both users and content creators, and Gen Z has growing influence here as well.
The Future of Generational Power
Generational power is not stagnant, and it ebbs and flows over time.
As this process naturally plays out, our new Generational Power Index and the coinciding annual report will aim to help quantify future shifts in power each year, while also highlighting the key stories that exemplify these new developments.
For a full methodology of how we built the Generational Power Index, see pages 28-30 in the report PDF. This is the first year of the report, and any feedback is welcomed.
Sun, 05/09/2021 – 23:40