Pew Discontinues the Generational Labeling of Generation Z and Millennials

**Pew Research Center Ends Use of Generational Framework in Research**

In a surprising move, Pew Research Center, a renowned research organization, has announced that it will no longer emphasize generational categorization in its polls and surveys. The decision, stated by Pew’s social trends director, Kim Parker, aims to prioritize research that brings value, advances national debates, and highlights significant societal trends. This shift comes after criticisms from social scientists and researchers, who argue that generational labeling oversimplifies people’s experiences and can lead to inaccurate generalizations.

**The Problem with Generational Frameworks**

Pew’s decision to abandon generational categories stems from the realization that these categories do not offer a fair comparison. Comparing the behavior of Gen Z, currently between 11 and 26 years old, with that of millennials, who are between 27 and 42 years old, is flawed due to the significant differences in their life stages. This problem with generational research was acknowledged by Parker in a 2019 article titled “Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins.” She expressed discomfort with being in the business of defining generations and emphasized that Pew’s generational classifications were not scientifically based.

**Criticism of Generational Categorization**

Critics have long argued against the use of generational labels, pointing out that they tend to obscure fundamental divisions of race, gender, and class within society. University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen has been a prominent voice in this debate, advocating for the abandonment of generational categories due to their arbitrary nature and lack of scientific basis. Cohen’s arguments were supported by a YouGov survey commissioned by The Atlantic, which revealed that only 39% of Gen Z respondents felt that the generational label assigned to them accurately represented their experiences.

**Evolution of Pew’s Research Methods**

Pew acknowledges the value of its past research and stands by it despite the decision to move away from generational frameworks. The organization has made changes to its research methods to address the criticisms of generational research. These changes include conducting in-depth analysis of historical data for stronger comparisons between generations and considering “period effects” that impact all age groups. Pew’s goal is to ensure that its research accurately represents the complexities of society while avoiding the pitfalls of generational generalizations.

**Challenging Generation Stereotypes**

The pushback against generation stereotypes has grown stronger in recent years. Millennials and Gen Z employees have been particularly affected by negative stereotypes, such as being labeled as lazy or disloyal. However, individuals in these age groups argue that such stereotypes are misconceptions and fail to take into account their unique perspectives on work-life balance and flexibility. Even McKinsey, a renowned business consulting firm, warns against treating generational research as an absolute truth and highlights the confusion it can cause when people try to identify with a particular generation.

**The Future of Generational Research**

Pew’s decision to de-emphasize generational frameworks reflects a broader trend in the research community. The flood of content that treats generational research as clickbait or marketing mythology has made it clear that a more nuanced approach is necessary. While certain aspects of generational research may still have utility in understanding public opinion and different experiences, it is essential to recognize and address the limitations of generational categorizations.

In conclusion, Pew Research Center’s decision to move away from generational frameworks marks a significant shift in how demographic data and research are approached. The criticisms against generational labels have highlighted the need for more nuanced and individualized analysis of societal trends. By reevaluating its methods and focusing on research that adds value and advances important debates, Pew aims to provide more accurate and meaningful insights into the complex dynamics of American society.

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