My post the other day about the whole "Gen Y is spoiled" nonsense made me think of one of my favorite sociology-type books of all time. Neil Howe and William Strauss' 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?
Funny how old-school the title sounds, but at the time the book was published (1993) the phrase "Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?" was completely unfamiliar to most anyone over 30. (For those of you too young to remember, it was what PCs asked when they were thinking of crashing.)
Strauss and Howe were the first to highlight Gen X as a separate and unique entity. And while many reporters defaulted to Doug Coupland's Generation X as the seminal generation-defining novel, it has none of the insight of Strauss and Howe.
A lot of their theories and observations still hold up. For instance they spend a lot of time talking about how kids became a low-level priority in the 1970s as their parents (and society) devoted their time to "finding themselves" and how this effected Gen Xers psychologically by making them more self-reliant than the generations before and after. They also define Gen X as being anyone too young to remember the Kennedy assassination, thus including the cohort born between 1961 and 1964.
Well worth a look (or second look) for anyone whose interested in how generations affect consumer behavior.