The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation and the World War II generation, is the demographic cohort following the Lost Generation and preceding the Silent Generation. The cohort is defined as individuals born between 1901 and 1927. They were shaped by the Great Depression and were the primary participants in World War II.
The term The Greatest Generation comes from the title of a 1998 book by American journalist Tom Brokaw. In the book, Brokaw profiled American members of this generation who came of age during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II, as well as those who contributed to the war effort on the home front. Brokaw wrote that these men and women fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the "right thing to do." This cohort is also referred to as the World War II generation.
This generation experienced much of their youth during rapid technological innovation (radio, telephone) amidst growing levels of worldwide income inequality and a soaring economy. After the Stock Market crashed, this generation experienced profound economic and social turmoil, and eventually World War II.
Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe called this generation the G.I. Generation in their 1991 book Generations: The History of America's Future and use 1901–1924 as birth years. The initials G.I. of G.I. Generation is American military terminology referring to Government Issue and General Issue.
Research professor of sociology Glen Holl Elder, Jr., a prominent figure in the development of life course theory, wrote Children of the Great Depression (1974), "the first longitudinal study of a Great Depression cohort." Elder followed 167 individuals born in California between 1920 and 1921 and "traced the impact of Depression and wartime experiences from the early years to middle age. Most of these 'children of the Great Depression' fared unusually well in their adult years". They came out of the hardships of the Great Depression "with an ability to know how to survive and make do and solve problems.”
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