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Which U.S. generation is the most immigrant?

I was listening this afternoon–for the umpteenth time–to Neil Howe’s tome on generational cycles and our current era, The Fourth Turning is Here, as he was discussing the cyclical and repeating nature of immigration to the U.S., which, since its founding (and reaching back to Western Europe and the War of the Roses) has experienced a four-part generational cycle.

Many articles here and there go on about how diverse Millennials are–and they are… as second-generation immigrants, with approximately one in five Millennial having one parent who is an immigrant and one in ten having at least one noncitizen parent, but it’s the Gen X generation–what is known as the Nomad archetype–which is always the most immigrant archetype.


Neil goes on to address how national moods toward extroversion and introversion vary cyclically in periods lasting approximately 20-25 years, and national sentiment and “warmth” toward immigrants also varies depending on economic cycles. (You want the details, read or listen to Neil’s book; I’m giving the super-short summary.)

Essentially, immigration tends to climb during an Awakening period (recently the U.S.’s Consciousness Revolution, approximately 1964-1984), which aligns closely with the U.S. Gen X birth years 1961-1981; it then peaks during an Unraveling era, which in the U.S. recently was 1985-2008, which aligns with Millennials’ birth years of 1982-2005; and then falls during a Crisis era, which, for the U.S., is 2008 to a predicted 2032.

Actual immigration, where people consciously choose to leave their country versus, for example, political refugees or people fleeing an environmental disaster, entails a lot of risk and a willingness to go forth into the unknown and hope to turn one’s fortunes and circumstances for the better. Cyclically, it’s always the Nomad generation (today’s Xers, yesteryears’s Lost, the Gilded and Liberty generations before them and even back to the Cavalier generation in the early 1600s) who are the biggest gamblers and the risk-takers. The California Gold Rush and the dot-com era … these are national events/eras/times fueled in large measure by young, rootless Nomads seeking to make their fortunes.

Some Gen Xers today were children of immigrants during the Awakening years and came with parents though many more were themselves teens and young adult immigrants arriving in the mid-’80s up until the Global Financial Crisis–many seeking a buck, a better life … as is the Nomad archetype’s nature.

Not only are Xers the most immigrant generation, but the vast numbers of Gen X immigrants significantly pumped up the generation’s size. While birthrates did fall when Xers were children, immigration made the generation huge at 88 million, easily 20 million larger than the Boomers at the top end. (I know, right? And about 13 million smaller than Millennials, which, born over a 23-year period, are simply a large generation.

Even with return immigration and some people returning back to their home countries, Xers are still the most immigrant generation.

Add that to your “things you probably wouldn’t know unless someone told you” list.

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