From the late 1980s, writers began to refer to the generation of children then being born under variations of the term echo. The earliest is probably this:
As they approach their days of leadership, Baby Boomers must, above all, focus on their own children, those whom some call the “Echo” generation.
ABA Journal, 15 May 1987.
As this shows, the term was starting to be applied to the children of the Baby Boomer generation (seen as an echo of them, hence the name). The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, as a result of demographic changes following the end of the Second World War. They were by some measures the healthiest and most privileged generation that had ever been born. Their existence, and the attention paid to them, was largely responsible for the idea that generations could be identified by some tag, which has led to many other terms for generational groups.
Echo boomers, as they were identified in the early 1990s, were born between the late 1970s or early 1980s and about 1990; the date range was later extended. They have been stereotyped as ethnically diverse children of the computer age, comfortable with digital communications and equipment, moderately conformist, untroubled by the generation gap. This group is large (three times that of the preceding Generation X) and has been posing demographic problems, especially in education.
The group has become known by many names — as the Millennial Generation (or the Millennials), Generation Next, the Net Generation, the iGeneration, the MyPod Generation and as Generation Y (or Gen Y, with individuals being Gen Yers). But the terminology is muddled, with Generation Y — as you might expect — being limited by some to the children of Generation X parents, or those born after about 1983. The range of birth dates has progressively been extended to the late 1990s or very early 2000s.
Most of the terms are still in use among sociologists, demographers and marketing professionals, though less so in popular writing. Generation Y is more frequent in the American press than Echo Boomer. Net Generation is also common, particularly outside the US.
Weaned on video games, Echo Boomers are the first generation to claim the computer as birthright. They troubleshoot the home PC and teach their parents the fine points of e-mail and Internet navigation.
The Salt Lake Tribune March 1998
Four different life perspectives are present: the “Silents,” shaped by the Depression and World War II; the boomers, products of no-limits postwar American affluence, but with the shadow of the cold war across their playground; Gen-X, more conservative, politically and financially; and Gen-Y, aka “echo boomers,” the boomers’ children, who have grown up wired and connected, but with no memory of, say, a “mobile” phone the size of a small backpack.
The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Apr. 2010.
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