GI Generation

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The G.I. Generation (born 1901–24) was born after the “Third Great Awakening” of the late 19th century. They enjoyed a “good kid” reputation as the beneficiaries of new playgrounds, scouting clubs, vitamins, and child-labor restrictions. They came of age with the sharpest rise in school achievement ever recorded. As young adults, they were the first Miss Americas and All-American athletes. Their various uniformed corps (CCC, WPA) patiently endured the Depression, after which they conquered more oceans and continents than any other fighting generation in world history. In midlife, they were subsidized by the G.I. Bill and built up the postwar economic system, facilitating upward mobility, erecting suburbs, inventing vaccines, plugging missile gaps, and launching moon rockets. Their gaps in family wealth and income were relatively small.

They reveled in the strength of the family as a stable institution, but no generation in the history of polling has gotten along worse with its children. They were greatly invested in civic life, institutions, and community and focused more on actions and behavior than on values and beliefs. Their unprecedented grip on the Presidency (1961 through ‘92) began with the New Frontier, Great Society, and Model Cities but wore down through Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and budget deficits. As senior citizens, they have safeguarded their “entitlements” but have had little influence over culture and values. Early in the 20th century, they were honored with memorials, films, and books.