Their collective identities typically begin to reveal themselves when their oldest members move into their teens and twenties and begin to act upon their values, attitudes and worldviews.
America’s newest generation, the Millennials, is in the middle of this coming-of-age phase of its life cycle.
The pattern suggests a strong period effect in the direction of greater acceptance of interracial dating.
This changing climate for race relations means that each new cohort came to adulthood more supportive of interracial dating, but the continuing cultural forces also persuaded some individuals to change their views on this topic at some point during adulthood.
Its oldest members are approaching age 30; its youngest are approaching adolescence. How are they different from — and similar to — their parents? And how might they, in turn, reshape America in the decades ahead?
An example based on a survey question about attitudes toward interracial dating helps illustrate the way these processes and analyses overlap.
Unfortunately, for many measures of the public’s attitudes and behaviors, long-term trends of the type shown here for interracial dating attitudes do not exist.
Consequently, the best available evidence for detecting many generational differences are comparisons of attitudes and behaviors across age groups from a single point in time, or, at best, over a relatively short period of time.
Another conclusion from the graph is that each younger cohort is more supportive than the cohorts that preceded it.
Baby Boomers were more supportive in 1987 than members of the Silent Generation, and remained that way throughout.