Those of us born between 1965 and 1981, Generation X, are often characterized as the “slacker generation”— disengaged and disdainful of authority, with a resistance to structured work hours. To amplify this perception, the generations around us are lauded as conscious consumers and active citizens; 87 percent of Millennials consider a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes when deciding where to work, while an increasing percentage of Baby Boomers are transitioning to careers in civic engagement, according to the Cone Cause Evolution Study.
But a new federal report suggests that, “oft-overlooked Gen Xers are becoming an important factor in social good efforts,” writes Rob Rosenthal in The Huffington Post. The annual “Volunteering in America” report from the Corporation for National Community Service asserts that in 2010, while overall volunteerism was slightly lower and the number of hours served stayed flat, Gen X was the only generation volunteering more hours than in years past.
A press release for the study notes that Gen X, “devoted more time to service in 2010 than they ever have before, giving more than 2.3 billion hours—an increase of almost 110 million hours over 2009.” It goes on to say that Gen X members, “more than doubled their volunteer rate between 1989 and the present day, from 12.3 percent in 1989 to 29.2 percent in 2010. “
Rosenthal points out that the rise in Gen X service hours is likely linked to their current life stage, “where individual involvement increases as they feel more connected to communities via home ownership, having children and more stable employment.”
Beyond their life stage, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that increased volunteerism is connected with being employed, another perk Gen X-ers have over Millennials and Baby Boomers. The blog Staying for Tea points out that the BLS study also shows that employed people volunteered at a rate 6-7 percentage points higher than unemployed people. “Millennials are hit hardest by rising unemployment rates – they have the least experience,” the BLS study explains, and Baby Boomers are also, “getting it a bit rough as some are induced to an early retirement – they cost the most to keep employed.”
Gen X is clearly at the peak of their philanthropic life cycle, but it may all be downhill from here, as Millennials enter a more secure life stage. But what do you make of Gen X’s volunteerism? What generation are you a part of and what’s your take on giving back to your community?