Look out Baby Boomers, your time as the top generational dog may be coming to an end sooner than we thought. According to new research from the Pew Research Center, the total number of Millennials in this here United States will hit approximately 75.3 million this year, a few ticks more than the 74.9 million Boomers who call America home. The much smaller Generation X, meanwhile, won’t pass Boomers until around 2028.
So how does a generation that has technically reached its outer parameter years ago keep growing? According to Pew, a much greater number of immigrants entering the U.S. fall into the Millennials generational framework than any other cohort. That inward migration will eventually swell the Millennials ranks to approximately 81.1 million by 2036.
There is a major caveat to consider, however. Generation borders are often defined by whoever is doing the research. Pew, for instance, defines Millennials as being born between 1981 and 1997, whereas the U.S. Census uses a 1982-2000 range. Other generational researchers have the Millennials spreading out as far as those born in 2004. Similar boundary fuzziness is applied to Boomers, whom the Census considers coming along from 1946 to 1964. Pew adds a year at the beginning, starting in 1945. Others have pegged the Boomers as arriving as early as 1943 and ending in 1960. But it is clear that if you use the wider makers, those which go to 1964 or 2004 instead of 1960 or 1997, the generation in question grows by a lot. Using the wider range one could presume the Millennials have already passed us Boomers up.
As regular readers know, I am writing a book based on how the various generations are perceived by each other. To keep things simple, I use the Census parameters at all times. I make no claim to actually being a generational researcher or historian – I’m a reporter. As such, official government data is a little like mother’s milk to me. So there you go.
Whatever the data set you use, it is a sure bet that sooner than later there is going to be more Millennials than Boomers. It is inevitable. What this means in the short term is hard to calculate, though it likely is not much. Boomers till hold the bulk of the political, social and economic power in this country. Our last three presidents have been Boomers, as almost certainly will be the next one. Most of Congress is still comprised of Boomers, though only one of the Congress’s top leaders (House Speaker John Boehner, who is 65) is a Boomer. The rest – Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – are all at least 72 years old, making them members of the so-called Silent Generation.
In the longer view, these numbers could conceivably mean a lot more to Generation X, and not in a good way. The sheer size and scope of the Millennials could give them a decided edge over Gen-X as Boomers continue to fade out. Millennials have proven they can have enormous impact on elections both when they turn out to vote (Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012) when they don’t (massive GOP Congressional gains in 2010 and 2012). It is hardly a reach to envision the younger crowd bypassing Gen X, which will shortly begin to also seem really old to them, in favor of their own cohort at every opportunity.