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New Guidelines Redefine Birth Years for Millennials, Gen-X, and 'Post-Millennials'

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Universal Studios

You hear about Millennials, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers all the time, but it’s not always clear who’s a part of these groups. In fact, all of these terms are fairly unofficial social constructs outside of the Boomers—the U.S. Census [PDF] actually defines them as the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964. Now, the Pew Research Center is looking to give more structure to these generational nicknames with a new set of guidelines that establishes where each person belongs depending on their birth year. This is what they’ve come up with:

  • The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)
  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)
  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)
  • Post-Millennials: Born 1997-Present (0-21 years old)

In addition to defining the birth years of Boomers and Gen-X'ers, Pew’s main focus with this research was to highlight where Millennials end and the yet-unnamed “Post-Millennial” generation begins. The new Millennial cutoff of 1996 is important because it points to a generation that is old enough to have experienced and comprehend 9/11, while also finding their way through the 2008 recession as young adults.

Those born between 1981 and 1996 will have been affected by the economic downturn in numerous ways: some would have had their early careers impacted, while others would have had their education influenced by it (perhaps through prohibitive tuition costs or a change in major to find a field with jobs). President of the Pew Research Center Michael Dimock said the recession’s effect on Millennials and the initial “slow start” to their careers “will be a factor in American society for decades.”

Technology also plays a factor in the dividing lines between generations. The study gives an example that the oldest “Post-Millennial” members would have been 10 when the iPhone was introduced, whereas many Millennials will still have memories of landlines, touch-tones, and rotary phones. As technology plays a more encompassing role in our lives, these societal developments are seen as a big enough distinction to draw generational lines through. Dimock points to Baby Boomers as a generation that saw TV become dominant, Generation X experienced a computer revolution, and Millennials grew up in an age where the internet became a new way of life.

Pew's new guidelines do alter a few others that came before. Some have put the Millennial generation from 1982-2004 (easily making it the longest generation), while others would have wanted to end it in the early '90s.

In establishing these guidelines, it also looks like the “Xennial” has been wiped from existence. This is a micro-generation that encompassed those born between 1977 and 1983—they identified themselves as people who grew up in a pre-digital world and later adapted to today’s technology. If this includes you, you’re now either a late-term Gen X’er or a grizzled veteran of the Millennial clan.

Dimock himself makes it clear that these “cutoff points aren’t an exact science.” They're simply tools to analyze the different shifts in how age groups are experiencing the world—socially, economically, politically, and technologically.

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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There's a Train Full of New York City Poop Stranded in Alabama—Here's Why.
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Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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