Introducing Generations at Work: Career Trends Among Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y

Does when you were born influence your career? Recent data suggests it might. PayScale’s second annual Generations at Work data package compares career trends among Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y workers.


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PayScale and Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting company, examined several factors by generation, including pay, job title, level of educational attainment, job satisfaction, values, and lifestyle. For the purposes of the study, generations were defined as follows: Baby Boomer (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1981) and Gen Y/Millennials (1982-2002).

A Sluggish Recovery

The study found that the economic downturn of 2008 had lasting effects on every generation at work. Many Baby Boomers are delaying retirement because of economic pressures, and are thus holding onto more senior positions longer than previous generations. As a result, Gen X and Gen Y workers are being prevented from ascending to management roles as quickly as their parents’ generations. Gen Y workers had fewer management roles in 2013 than the previous year (12 percent, compared with 15 percent).

Gen Y workers were also more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, and delayed in starting their careers. They were also more likely than previous generations to be forced to move back in with their parents at some point after heading out on their own (28 percent).

“The economy has delayed their careers and their personal independence and forced them to work harder than previous generations just to catch up,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and New York Times best-selling author of Promote Yourself. “They are taking on multiple jobs to pay back student loans and are being forced to create their own careers instead of relying on companies to do it for them.

Other Highlights from the Report

  • Unsurprisingly, Baby Boomers had the highest paying jobs, including titles like Chief Medical Officer (CMO) ($300,700 median pay), Psychiatrist ($215,200 median pay), and Aerospace Engineer ($122,800 median pay).
  • When asked what they would change about their work situation, Baby Boomers were most likely (9 percent) to say their boss compared to 6 percent of Gen Y and 7 percent of Gen X.
  • Male and female differences in pay, when controlled for various factors, is only 2-3 percent across all generations, and the difference is smallest for Gen Y (1.8 percent).
  • Gen X is most likely to work at home — 7 percent do so, as compared to 5 percent each of Gen Y and Baby Boomers.
  • From the good news/bad news files: Gen Y has the lowest levels of job satisfaction and meaning, but also the lowest levels of job stress.

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