Obama and generational semantics

Bit of a running commentary on Gawker to determine if Obama is a Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer (among other running commentaries). His birthdate of 1961 makes it problematic, putting him right at that cutoff birthyear range defined by Strauss & Howe, who argue that Gen X (they called it the 13th generation) began in 1961. Others say this generation began in 1965.

I’ve already argued that Obama belongs to the later generation, but true to anyone born around the border year between two generations, he exhibits traits of both generations.

He would have been too young after just turning age 8 (if not too impressionable or, more likely traumatized) to experience the excess of Woodstock in 1969 the same way the Boomers did. Yet, I don’t think he would have been too old at age 32 to be listening to Nirvana when Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994.

He has both the idealism of the Boomers and the pragmatism of the X’ers.

To put perhaps too fine a point on it, birthrates peaked around 1957, saw a slight decline during the recession of 1958 (which didn’t hit the U.S. as hard as it did elsewhere in the world), and then peaked again in 1961 (I haven’t had the time to see if the recent inclusion of new states Alaska and Hawaii impacted 1961’s numbers vs. 1957’s, but I can’t image it was terribly significant). Then birthrates took its steep decline into my decade of the 1970s, likely spurred on by the unrest in the national mood, a slowing economy and increasing use of birth control and Roe v. Wade (January 1973).

But if you need a cutoff date (and I think I do) I’m calling it 1961 based on this alone: The FDA first approved the Pill for contraceptive use on June 23, 1960, which would start impacting fertility rates in 1961. True, Wikipedia conservatively estimates a half-million women were using Enovid for three years before that (the FDA initially approved it for menstrual disorders before OK’ing its use for birth control). But if you need a cutoff, I’d say place it at nine months after June 23, 1960 — I’ll let you round it back to the start of 1961 for convenience’s sake. (You could keep making arguments for cutoff dates revolving around Pill history — when it was first marketed after the FDA approved its use for birth control, when every state allowed all married and unmarried women to use it, etc., but I’m using the first date — that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

Anyway, this was spawned by the above-linked Gawker posting, which was inspired by backlash to a recent Radar article.


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