The overlooked influence of Gen X

Generation X is an enigma. Sandwiched between baby boomers and millennials, this often-overlooked group of 81 million Americans, born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, maintains a unique relationship with technology. Many marketers have yet to recognize the potential of this audience.

Here at Yahoo we regularly conduct research to help our advertising partners make even smarter decisions about their spending. A new study, Generation X: America's most influential generation, breaks down the macro trends, the new economic realities, and the lifestage responsibilities that shape the behavior we're seeing.

Older members of Generation X grew up altogether before the digital age, and even its youngest members were born years before the advent of the smartphone or the tablet. And yet, this disruptive generation is responsible for many of the entrepreneurial breakthroughs that have been seized upon and further expanded by millennials.

Our research found that more than 25% of Generation Xers have started their own businesses -- or have taken steps toward starting one. They represent, by far, the highest percentage of startup founders. Despite the number of films celebrating the image of a “slacker” generation, innovative Xers report finding it difficult to work with millennials, suggesting they’re “entitled.” In fact, 68% of Gen Xers believe they work much harder than their younger counterparts.

As they’ve grown into their role as the middle child of American generations, Xers are finding ways to balance work with increasing responsibilities at home. Nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent over the age of 65 and are raising or financially supporting at least one child of their own. It’s not surprising then that 58% of Gen X parents fantasize about having a day or night to just do nothing at all.

The consequence for marketers is an increased need to focus on forging an immediate emotional connection with this audience.

Part of that work-life balance involves quality family time. Usually with Millennial children in the household, time together invariably includes the use of multiple tech devices. During primetime hours, 84% of Gen Xers use at least two devices. In fact, this generation is most prone to multitasking during primetime, averaging 9.2 device switches per hour. Compared to millennials, however, they’re less proficient at it.

Generation X is quick to concede the mantle of tech-savviness to their children. 54% of parents believe their children have a better grasp of technology than they do. That’s good news for the 43% of Gen Xers who have an internet-enabled TV at home.

Generation X may not be as obsessed with technology as Millennials, but their obsessions in other areas will drive their tech purchases. Health is a major area of concern for middle-aged Gen Xers, as 17% of them have experienced a health “wake-up call” in the past three years.

Wearable technology is another growing trend among Gen X, with 59% of its members saying they’ll adopt wearable fitness tech within the next five years. As the middle-aged brain becomes more distractible and worse at retrieving memories, Generation X is more likely than other generations to seek out ways to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.

Generation X has already seen its massive influence shape the present and future of the American economy. More than just a bridge to the younger generations, Gen X is worthy of being included in the marketing trends that are looking past it.

Read the full research study now.