Toops Scoops: Keeping up with the Jonesers

Nov. 15, 2003
A lost generation between Boomers and Xers, Generation Jonesers are becoming increasingly vocal about their wants and needs

Although demographers have traditionally considered anyone born between 1946 and 1964 to be a member of the Baby Boomer generation, Jonathan Pontell, a Los Angeles-based cultural historian, disagrees.

Pontell, author of the upcoming book Generation Jones, sees striking differences in the values of and attitudes of Americans born between 1946 and 1953 and those born between 1954 and 1965, whom he has dubbed Generation Jones. "They are the lost generation between Boomers and Generation X," says Pontel, a Generation Joneser himself.

Although they are some 53 million strong, Jonesers long for their own identity, according to Pontel. Since the term "Jonesin' " is hip, passionate slang for describing a strong craving, he believes the moniker is perfect for this generation that bridges the gap between true Boomers, who believed they could change the world, and Xers who believe they can change very little. What do Jonesers believe? Since so little is known about them, their moniker is also appropriate for the grey zone they inhabit between idealism and cynicism. They could just as easily have been named Generation Smith or Generation Doe.

As children in the 60s , one of the pinnacles of post-World War II prosperity and optimism -- Jonesers were promised well-paying jobs, a healthy economy and a better world. "The great expectations of older, leading-edge Boomers generally were realized, at least in terms of financial success, but Jonesers were confronted with disappointing realities," explains Pontell. They witnessed the fall of Vietnam and Nixon, only to be confronted with the ensuing oil embargo and a more than 30 percent decline in the S&P Index. As they entered the workforce, they watched the nation's economy sour and their hopes for prosperity along with it. They felt disaffected and cheated.

Jonesers have since become a more practical and balanced mainstream group, according to Pontell. They're driven, persevering and they've worked long hours to acquire the standard trappings of success , houses, cars and stock portfolios. Now in their mid-30s to late-40s, they are also becoming more vocal about who they are what they want. For instance, Jonesers want flextime, as well as vacations from their cell phones and e-mail -- in short, a more balanced lifestyle. They also want to spend more time with their children, unlike Boomers, who sometimes put parenting on the back burner in order to pursue social change (think 70s) or fat paychecks (the 80s).

Perhaps because boomers and Xers are easier to define than Jonesers, marketers tend to focus on them more while virtually ignoring this major demographic. Although they aren't as flamboyant or vocal as their predecessors, nor as targetable as the cynical Generation Xers, Generation Jones is plenty big (representing one-quarter of all adults) and, as such, has plenty of influence and purchasing power.

Now, what do they hunger to spend it on? More on Generation Jones next month.

The Silent Majority

Mature generations

Ages 62 and older

22 percent

Baby Boomers

Ages 50 to 61

18 percent

Generation Jones

Ages 38 to 49

26 percen


Generation X

Ages 25 to 37

21 percent

Generation Y

Ages 18 to 24

13 percent

Source: Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2002

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