(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

The 1994 film Reality Bites paints a grim picture for the future of generation X, people born between 1961 and 1981. The comedy follows a group of twenty-somethings (including a 23-year-old Winona Ryder) as they struggle to figure out their next steps post-graduation. The movie encapsulates the same stereotype that many people hold about the entire generation: a bunch of lost, unsuccessful underachievers. But a University of Michigan survey found this is actually an unfair generalization to make. Many gen Xers are, in fact, doing quite well.

Based on the results of the study, which began in 1986 and was comprised of 4,000 gen Xers, lead author Jon Miller said many from this generation are leading active, balanced and happy lives.

“They are not bowling alone,” Miller said. “They are active in their communities, mainly satisfied with their jobs and able to balance work, family and leisure.”

According to the study, 70 percent of gen Xers are spending 40 or more hours working and commuting each week. And, compared with a sample of all adults, they are more likely to be employed and are working and commuting significantly more hours a week than the typical U.S. adult.

Two-thirds of generation X adults are married, and 71 percent have minor children at home. They are also attentive parents; three-quarters of the parents of elementary school children said that they help their children with homework, and 43 percent provide five or more hours of homework help each week.

Generation X is also social. Thirty percent are active members of professional, business or union organizations, and one in three is an active member of a church or religious organization. Ninety-five percent talk on the phone at least once a week to friends or family, and 29 percent say they do so at least once a day.

“In sociologist Robert Putnam’s influential book, Bowling Alone, he argued that Americans were increasingly isolated socially,” Miller said. “But this data indicates that generation X members are not bowling alone. Although they may be less likely to join community-based luncheon clubs, they have extensive social, occupational and community networks. They are active participants in parent-teacher organizations, local youth sports clubs, book clubs and other community organizations.”

The are also active, with 90 percent stating that they participated in at least one outdoor activity, such as hiking, swimming, boating or fishing, and 40 percent engaging in two or more recreation and leisure activities per month.

“Generation X adults are also readers,” Miller said. “Seventy-two percent read a newspaper, in print or online, at least once a week, and fully 80 percent bought and read at least one book during the last year. Nearly half said that they read six or more books in the last year.”

On average, Miller found that gen Xers are happy with their lives, having rated them an average level of 7.5 on a 10-point scale in which 10 equals “very happy.”

Source: University of Michigan

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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