Who Are the Millennials and How do they Compare to Other Generations?

A Comparison of Millennials with Hippies, Yuppies, Bobos, and Generation X.

Increasingly, psychographic factors (how people think, feel and behave) are important determinants of travel and spending behaviour.  American demographics (e.g. age, race and sex), should therefore be analysed in conjunction with their psychographic behaviour in order to provide a true picture of different market segments of American travelers. 


The comparison of the behaviour over a number of generations of Americans – hippies, yuppies, bourgeois bohemians (bobos), Generation X and the Millennials– provides important insights inanalysing the complex society that is America (refer, for example, to How Americans will Travel 2015 from Tourism Intelligence International and Leve-Global 2018.

The largest demographic segments in the United States are the Generation Xers (born around mid 1960s to the mid 1970s) and the Millennials (also known as Generation Y, born between the early 1980s and late 1990s), each making up over one-fifth of the US population, according to Tourism Intelligence Internationaland US Census Bureauestimates.  

The Gen Xers (20%) and the Millennials (20%) are followed by the Hippies (9%), the Yuppies (13%) and the Bobos (15%). The Yuppies, a majority of the Bobos as well as some of the youngest Hippies constitute the Baby Boomers.  The Baby Boomer segment is dealt with later in this chapter, but for the purpose of this analysis a distinction is made between the Yuppies and the Bobos.

Demographic Market Comparisons

Source: US Census Bureau, 2017

Hippies are the children of the war period.  They were born in the late 30s and 40s.  In 2018, they are in their late 60s to 70s. The yuppies (also known as Generation Jones, according to Social Marketing) were born in the 1950s and 1960s and are in their 50s and 60s today. The “bourgeois bohemians” (bobos)were born in the mid 1960s and mid 1970s and are in their 40s and 50s today.

While age provides an important tool for analysis, it is important to recognise that it is the values of the groups, more than their agesthat are the true determinants of travel and spending behaviour.  Indeed, your target market may very well be a born-again hippie (a hippie re-born as a Yuppie or a Millennial).  And indeed, they may be clients displaying characteristics of more than one category. In other words, a single client may have Hippie, Yuppie, Bobo and Generation X tendencies.  Nevertheless, the split into the categories provides an important starting point for analysis. 

Hippies tend to be group-oriented; yuppies, individualistic; bobos are free spirited; and the Millennials tend to be technology-dependent. 

The table below provides a brief overview of the various characteristics of the different generations of Americans.

Generational Comparison – Who are They?


When born

Main characteristics


General Approach


circa 1930s to 40s

Group-Oriented, idealistic

Peace & Love



circa 1940s to 50s

Individualistic, driven, status oriented

No money, no love



circa 1950s to 60s

Free Spirited, concern for others and the environment

Have your cake and eat it


Generation X

circa 1960s to 70s

Pragmatic, accept diversity, reject rules, latch-key kids, technology-savvy, friends-not-family, reject rules

Live life in the here and now



circa 1970s to 90s

Ultra Flexible, Technology- Dependent, celebrate diversity, optimistic, self-inventive, irrelevance of institutions, friends=family, demanding, rewrite rules

All Gains, no Pains


Who are the Hippies?

The hippies were the liberals and long-haired who came of age during the tumultuous decade of the 1960’s.  Intoxicated on a heady mix of self-discovery, flower-power, rebelliousness, raised consciousness and women’s liberation – not to mention plenty of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – the hippie generation revelled in the excesses of what they apparently believed would be a never-ending youth. 

Even their rallying cry “Never trust anyone over 30!” seemed to reflect the naivebelief that they themselves would never attain this ripe old age and could apparently escape their sudden transformation into boring, untrustworthy old fogeys.  (At least the lyrics in one of the Who’s songs from this period – “I hope I die before I get old” – reflected some basic understanding of certain biological inevitabilities). 

Sadly, no matter how irrepressibly young the hippies felt (or, more to the point: acted),they were not in a position to halt either the march of time or the ageing process. So now, in the opening years of the 21stcentury, Hippies themselves are well into their 70’s.

However, even though the ex-hippies have aged, they have retained to this day, many of the values, tastes, attitudes and political tendencies they developed while growing up as part of the ’60’s generation.  Their idealism, environmental concern and somewhat holistic approach to consumerism are still reflected in the kinds of things they buy, and they travel, for example, their relative lack of interest in luxury products and luxury holidays, preferring more spiritual options. 

Who are the Yuppies?

For all the heat and noise the hippie phenomenon generated, it turned out to be relatively short-lived.  By the mid-1970’s, the Vietnam War had ended, and the students who were still in school at that time, lacking the opportunity that a war offered to congregate in campus quarters and shout slogans like “Hell no!  We won’t go!” actually knuckled under and focused on the conventional success that would come their way by dint of finishing their studies and getting good jobs. 

For them, hippie idealism was touching, but hopelessly naïve. Why waste time protesting injustices on the other side of the world, when there was money to be made right here at home? 

These youngsters emerged into the 1980’s as a generation that would become famous for their materialistic, anti-countercultureattitude: the Yuppies (“Young Urban Upwardly Mobile Professionals”).

Where the hippies were lackadaisical, the Yuppies were driven.  To be sure, their motivation was helped along by the fact that just as they were coming of age in the early 1980’s, the Reagan-Thatcher economic experiment was getting under way in the Anglo-Saxon world.  No one knew this at the time, but the Yuppies had luck on their side, kicking off their careers right on the threshold of what turned out to be one of the longest, nearly uninterrupted periods of economic growth in history.  

So not only did the economic boom ensure that there were plenty of high-paying jobs for the Yuppies to snap up, it also ensured that they were able to invest their income – the part that didn’t go toward the monthly payment on their BMW’s, that is – in a stock market that seemed to go up and up indefinitely.  Add to that a related phenomenon: the rise of the “DINKS” (“Double Income, No Kids”) – young couples who put off having children in order for the two wage earners in the family to build up a financial war chest – and you have a generation that was positivelyswimmingin money.

The yuppies were a generation that was, and remains (the Yuppies being in their 60’s and 70’s now) deeply competitive and status-conscious.  This is reflected in their insistence on owning luxury products and their willingness to spend heavily on status, including holidays in high-status destinations.  

The Yuppie lifestyle is based almost entirely on brands – some of which didn’t even exist until clever marketers realised that a whole class of wealthy young people were willing to pay through their noses for status. And this was certainly helped by the rise of Asian consumers.

Who are the Bobos?

As the name “Bourgeois Bohemian” implies, this age group combines a near-paradoxical set of values – in fact, it embodies a weird mix of both hippie and Yuppie mentalities, according to David Brooks

The Bobos are “bourgeois” in the sense that they are urban, well-educated, professionally successful and, in their own special way, extremely materialistic. Like the Yuppies, Bobos are top income generators, occupying managerial or entrepreneurial positions in “cool” professions and spending freely to support their demanding lifestyles. 

Yet at the same time they are also “Bohemian”, because their values reflect some of the hippies’ spiritualism and quest for balance, healthiness and meaning.  Well-educated to begin with, they feel driven to expand their cultural horizons through experiences and travel – which also justifies some of their materialistic urge.  (After all, another way to expand those horizons is by shopping.)


All this may sound like an ideal blend of the two mind-sets that came before. After all, who could find fault in being materially well off andspiritually balanced?  Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to reconcile these two, often-contradictory ideals.  Bobos need to convince themselves that they are being materialistic in the service of some greater good.


In other words, while they are emulating the Yuppies’ egregious willingness to spend money on material goods, the Bobos at the same time manage to convince themselves that their own brand of materialism is morally superior to that of the Yuppies, because it contains an element of spirituality that was sadly lacking in the “Greed is good” lifestyle espoused by the Yuppies.


David Brooks illustrates this with the following example in his book Bobos in Paradise.  Brooks writes that while it is perfectly acceptable for a Bobo to spend $65,000 on a Range Rover, he would never dream of spending the same amount of money on, for example, a vintage Corvette, as that would be considered hopelessly vulgar.  This is because, at some level, it is possible for the Bobo to persuade himself that a Range Rover is morethan an expensive automobile.  

It is in fact a tool– much like a trusty garden spade or a trowel – which allows him (should the need ever arise, which it may not, since he is more likely to be a software consultant than a gentleman farmer) to transport big, muddy, cumbersome objects over rough, forbidding terrain, and thus to feel more in touch with the Earth and the elements.  Seen this way, buying a Range Rover is actually a virtuous, Zen-like act.  A Corvette, by contrast, is just an ostentatiously gaudy car.


The Bobo lifestyle is positively brimming with similar paradoxes, as its practitioners find ways to make mega-consumption appear (to themselves, anyway) to fit into a moral framework of “simple” values such as egalitarianism, the quest for authenticity and self-discovery.

Who are the Generation Xers?

Generation X is a term used to describe a group of people born from around mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. The biggest impact that Generation X has had on popular culture probably began in the 1980s and peaked in the 1990s.


A Departure from the Older Generations of Yuppies and Bobos


While the term Generation X can be used to describe a wide group of people, it has come to be popularly accepted that members of this generation, wrought in the shadow of the Yuppies and Bobos, felt alienated and disenfranchised by the cultural icons of the time. The “X” described the lack of identity that membersof Generation X felt — they didn’tknow where they belonged, but knew for sure that they weren’ta part of their parents’ overbearing generation, the Yuppies and to a lesser extent, their older siblings, the Bobos. The media played its part in promoting the Generation X stereotype by portraying them as grunge-listening, Starbucks-drinking, flannel-donning slackers who were quietly revolting against their overachieving Yuppie parents.  While Gen Xers probably feel passionate about some things, in general they have been portrayedas apathetic, disaffected ‘twentysomethings’with no course in life.


The main factor that has shaped this generation into what it is today is the overachievement, workaholic, money-focused attributes of their Yuppie parents. 


The members of Generation X grew up in a very different world than previous generations.  Divorce, working moms, single-parent homes, career-driven parents created “latch-key”kids out of many in this generation. The term “latch-key” refers to the factthat many Gen Xers came home from school to an empty house.  They were given the key to the house and had to literally fend forthemselves and often their younger siblings until their parents came home later at nights. This led to traits of independence, resilience and adaptability.

latch key kids

It also led to a break-away from authority and disregard for rules.  They were disappointed in their parents and wanted nothing to do with anything that they stood for. 


Generation X saw their parents get laid off or face job insecurity. Many of them also entered the workplace in the early ’80s, when the economy was in a downturn. Because of these factors, they’ve redefined loyalty. Instead of remaining loyal to their company, they have a commitment to their work, to the team they work with, and the boss they work for. For example, a Baby Boomer complains about his/her dissatisfaction with management, but figures its part of the job. Gen Xers do not waste time complaining; they send out CVs and accept the best offer they can find at another organization.


At the same time, Generation X takes employability seriously. But for this generation there isn’t a career ladder. There’s a career lattice. They can move laterally; stop and start whenever they deem it necessary; their career is more fluid.


Even more so than the overachieving Yuppies, members of Generation X dislike authority and rigid work requirements.  An effective mentoring relationship with them must be as hands-off as possible.  Gen Xers want to work with you, not for you.  Gen Xers work best when they’re given the desired outcome and then turned loose to figure out how to achieve it.

Who are Millennials?

The largest generation of young people since the ’60s has become a major force in the world.  They’re called Millennials because they came of age at the turn of the millennium. The Millennial generation is the largest in US history and as they reach their prime working and spending years, their impact on the economy is going to be huge.


Born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, Millennials are already having a huge impact on entire segments of the economy.  And as they age, they will be become the next dominant generation of Americans.


The oldest Millennials are still relatively new to the workplace and the youngest are still in college.


And whether you call them “Generation Y,” “Millennials,” orthe“DumbestGeneration,” they already make up over a quarter of the U.S. population, and already spend USD $170 billion a year of their own and their parents’ money.

Spending Habits of Millennials versus Generation Xers

Millennial spending habits
Source: Charles Schwab, CNBC, 2017

Millennials are a reflection of the sweeping changes in American life over the past 30 years – racial diversity, sexual orientation, different living arrangements andparticularly changes related to technology.

Racial Diversity

Diversity is one of the key characteristics of Millennials. In comparison, Hippies, Yuppies and Bobos are relatively uniform in race, living arrangements and socio-economic classes.

Millennials are the first generation to seriously question all traditional racial categories. There is more interaction among races at school and socially. The minority teen culture shows incredible influence on white teens’choices in music, fashion, and language. Two-thirds of this generation are white; one out of 35 are from mixed-race backgrounds.


Living Arrangements

One-parent homes are more common today. A significant number of Millennials (27 percent) have only one parent as compared to 12 percent of children in 1975, according to the US Census Bureau.


Sexual Identity

Millennials, more than any other preceding generation, are more exposed and tolerant to sexual orientation issues.  Hollywood, MTV, pop culture and the like portray being gay as the ‘in thing’.  And the Millennials are embracing it.  More Millennials are ‘coming out of the closet’ than previous generations and at an earlier age.  Thirty years ago ‘homosexuality’ was viewed as a mental illness now it is increasingly being viewed as ‘part of life’.  Thirty years ago, the average age of coming out was age 23 while the average is now 16, according to a 2007 study conducted by the College of Human Development.

Gender Roles Reversal

Millennial males are more likely to colour their hair, wear jewellery, use skin cream and visit a Day Spa.  Females, on the other hand, are more likely to try their hand at hardware and power tools as they carry out their own ‘do-it-yourself’jobs around the house.

Unlike prior generations, female children are now urged to have careers and become self-reliant.  The notion that marriage is the ultimate goal for a girl has faded away.

As in prior generations, females are slaves to fashion.  This also applies to boys.  Both genders feel pressure to dress a certain way for acceptance within their peer groups. The short-lived fashion fads constantly challenge this generation’s pocketbooks.

The Technology Gap

Technology is by far the most distinguishing factor that divides the Millennials from other generations, especially the older generations. 

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers at home.  They were born in a 500-channel TV universe. They are multi-taskers with cell phones that have video and music capabilities; online torrent downloads (music, movies, magazines, etc.); and Instant Messaging on the Internet.  They are totally plugged-in citizens of a worldwide web community.

American Millennials have an internet usage penetration rate of 99% compared to just 64% for Yuppies and Bobos and 96% for Gen Xers, according to Statista.

Millennials’ affinity for technology is reshaping the retail space. With product information, reviews and price comparisons at their fingertips, Millennials are turning to brands that can offer maximum convenience at the lowest cost.

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