November 10, 2001

Euro RSCG Worldwide unveiled key findings of its latest global study, Generations & Gaps. The study compares and contrasts the ever-intriguing Baby Boomers (b. 1945-1964) and subsequent generations, most notably members of the Echo Boom (b. 1975-1994).

Respondents hailed from every region of the world, with responses analyzed for North and South America, Asia Pacific, and Europe. Results span a variety of topics, including political and social views, the aging process, generational perceptions, and views on family and childhood.

"Boomers have long been recognized as a political, social, and economic force throughout the world," said Bob Schmetterer, Chairman and CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide. "Today, a second wave of Boomers-members of the Echo Boom-is waiting in the wings to assume a more prominent role in society. It is vital for the success of businesses and governments to understand the differences and similarities in the political and social views, worries, fears, and aspirations of these two powerful generations."

Among the key findings:


The statement "Families can only be formed through blood, marriage, or adoption; friends and live-in lovers don't count" is rejected across regions and ages. It is telling, however, that members of the oldest age group (17% of Core Boomers, b. 1945-1954) are the most likely to agree with the statement, while the Xers (b. 1965-1974) and Echo Boomers (both around 7%) are the least likely to agree.

Looking at the regional split, respondents from Asia Pacific (13%) are the most likely to limit family to those united by blood, marriage, or adoption. In that sense, they are the most conservative on this family issue. Fully 60% of South American respondents disagree completely with the more limited definition of family.


69% of Baby Boomers and 70% of Echo Boomers in the sample agree somewhat or completely that children today are growing up too fast. Respondents in the Americas are somewhat more likely than those in Europe and Asia Pacific to agree. Women are more likely than men to agree that children are growing up too quickly (75% of female respondents agree completely or somewhat with that statement, versus 62% of men).

A good portion of the sample (32% of Baby Boomers and 34% of Echo Boomers) is ambivalent about whether today's children are spoiled, and nearly one in five respondents (18%) disagree somewhat or completely with this statement. This may reflect an understanding that having more toys or personal electronics is no trade for the free time and simple pleasures the Baby Boomers enjoyed in their own youth.


The majority of respondents think that both men and women become middle aged at around 45, though women are apt to extend that age further than men. More than a quarter of females see 55 as the beginning of middle age for both men and women, while 27% of men consider age 35 the beginning of middle age for women (only 18% of male respondents consider 35 the beginning of middle age for men).


On the question of at what age people reach various peaks, Echo Boomers expect to hit each of their peaks at a significantly younger age than the Baby Boomers say they hit (or expect to hit) theirs. Echoes are expecting to hit their sexual peak at 30, their earnings peak at 38, and intellectual heights at 41. Baby Boomers report their sexual peak at 37, earnings peak at 47 (a full decade later than the Echoes), and their intellectual peak at 49. Members of both generations do, however, agree on the order of progression: namely, that one hits one's physical peak first, followed in order by one's sexual, earnings, intellectual, and spiritual peaks.


When it comes to sex appeal, the sample agrees that men can be considered sexy longer than women, though the overall difference in means is not so great: around 63 for women and around 67 for men. Baby Boomers and North Americans are most generous in their estimations of how long a person can hold onto his or her sex appeal.


Respondents strongly agree that democracy is the best form of government in existence today. Of 48 attitudinal statements, it's the sentiment with which Core Boomers most strongly agree (65%). Echo Boomers evince the least agreement with that statement (36%), explained perhaps by the fact that, in this post-Cold War world, democracy is experienced by Echo Boomers as more of a given, an accepted fact of life.

Regionally, it's South American and European respondents who are most strongly appreciative of democracy (49% of each agree). Relatively speaking, respondents raised in Asia appear to be the least enthusiastic about the democratic system of government (only 29% agree).


Members of every generation are jaded, however, when it comes to the people who run democracies. Respondents tend to agree completely or somewhat with the proposition that "most politicians are corrupt." Level of agreement increases with inverse proportion to age: Echo Boomers are most likely to agree that most politicians are corrupt (30% agreeing completely), while the Core Boomers are least likely to agree (20% agreeing completely). Echo Boomers' higher perception of political corruption and slightly more attenuated enthusiasm for democracy may well be connected.

Respondents in South America are by far the most likely to believe that politicians are corrupt (56%). European respondents emerge as the least cynical, at 21%.


Despite an overwhelming belief that democracy is the best form of government, respondents seem to be in favor of injecting socialism into society. Many believe, for example, that food and housing are basic rights, even if the government has to provide them. In terms of age, more Core Boomers (51%) than any other age agree completely with that idea.

In terms of region, North Americans are the most lukewarm on food and housing as a basic right (37%). South Americans are the most emphatically keen on food and housing for all, at 69%, followed by European respondents at 51%.

METHODOLOGY: Generations & Gaps surveyed more than 2,300 respondents aged 18-56 in more than two dozen countries via online polls conducted by InsightExpress, a Web-based research firm. In addition, 200 self-administered surveys of Baby Boomers (b. 1945-1964) and Echo Boomers (b. 1975-1994) were collected to add qualitative richness to the findings. The study broke down the Baby Boomers into Core Boomers, born between 1945 and 1954, and "Cusper" Boomers, born between 1955 and 1964. The study also examined Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1974.


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