Ranking U.S. Generations on Their Power and Influence Over Society
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Demographics

Ranking U.S. Generations on Their Power and Influence Over Society

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The Generational Power Index
The Generational Power Index
Introducing our new index, which ranks U.S. generations on their economic, political, and cultural influence.

>> Download the Report (.pdf)

Which U.S. Generation has the Most Power and Influence?

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Which U.S. Generation has the Most Power and Influence?

We’re on the cusp of one of the most impactful generational shifts in history.

As it stands, the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are America’s most wealthy and influential generation. But even the youngest Boomers are close to retirement, with millions leaving the workforce every year. As Baby Boomers pass the torch, which generation will take their place as America’s most powerful?

In our inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI) for 2021, we’ve attempted to quantify how much power and influence each generation holds in American society, and what that means for the near future.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

Generation and Power, Defined

Before diving into the results of the first GPI, it’s important to explain how we’ve chosen to define both generations and power.

Here’s the breakdown of how we categorized each generation, along with their age ranges and birth years.

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

The above age brackets for each generation aren’t universally accepted. However, since our report largely focuses on U.S. data, we went with the most widely cited definitions, used by establishments such as Pew Research Center and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

To measure power, we considered a variety of factors that fell under three main categories:

  • Economic Power
  • Political Power
  • Cultural Power

We’ll dive deeper into each category, and which generations dominated each one, below.

Overall Power, By Generation

Baby Boomers lead the pack when it comes to overall generational power, capturing 38.6%.

GenerationOverall Power Share
The Silent Generation12.8%
Baby Boomers38.6%
Gen X30.4%
Millennials14.5%
Gen Z3.7%
Gen Alpha0.0%
Total100.0%

While Boomers hold the largest share of power, it’s interesting to note that they only make up 21.8% of the total U.S. population.

Gen X comes in second place, capturing 30.4% of power, while Gen Z ranks last, snagging a mere 3.7%. Gen Alpha has yet to score on the ranking, but keep in mind that the oldest members of this generation will only be eight years old this year—they haven’t even reached double digits yet.

Generational Power: Economics

Considering that Baby Boomers hold nearly 53% of all U.S. household wealth, it makes sense that they dominate when it comes to our measurement of Economic Power.

Economic Generational power

At 43.4%, the GPI shows that Boomers hold more economic influence than Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z combined. They make up a majority of business leaders in the U.S., and hold 42% of billionaire wealth in America.

Timing plays a role in the economic prosperity of Baby Boomers. They grew up in a post-WWII era, and spent their primary working years in a relatively stable, prosperous economy.

In contrast, Millennials entered the workforce during the Great Recession and have seen only tenuous economic and wage growth, impacting their ability to accumulate wealth. Combine this with crippling amounts of student debt, and it’s no surprise that Millennials have nearly 50% less wealth than other generations (Boomers, Gen X) at a comparable age.

Generational Power: Political

In addition to holding the most Economic Power in the GPI, Baby Boomers also rank number one when it comes to Political Power.

Political Generational Power
Boomers capture 47.4% of political influence. This generation accounts for 32% of all U.S. voters, and holds the majority of federal and state positions. For instance, 68% of U.S. senators are Baby Boomers.

Political spending on election campaigns and lobbying predominantly comes from Boomers, too. When it comes to money spent on lobbying, we found that 60% of the top 20 spenders were from organizations led by Baby Boomers.

In contrast, Millennials and Gen Zers barely make a splash in the political realm. That said, in the coming years, it’s estimated that the combined voting power of Millennials and Gen Z will see immense growth, rising from 32% of voters in 2020 up to 55% by 2036.

Cultural Power

There is one category where other generations gave Boomers a run for their money, which is in Cultural Power.

Cultural Generational Power

In this category, it’s actually Gen X that leads the pack, capturing 36.0% of Cultural Power. Gen X is especially dominant in press and news media—over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and a majority of the most influential news personalities are also members of Gen X.

Despite a strong showing in our culture category, Gen X falls short in one key variable we looked at—the digital realm. On digital platforms, Millennials dominate when it comes to both users and content creators, and Gen Z has growing influence here as well.

The Future of Generational Power

Generational power is not stagnant, and it ebbs and flows over time.

As this process naturally plays out, our new Generational Power Index and the coinciding annual report will aim to help quantify future shifts in power each year, while also highlighting the key stories that exemplify these new developments.

For a full methodology of how we built the Generational Power Index, see pages 28-30 in the report PDF. This is the first year of the report, and any feedback is welcomed.

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Demographics

3D Map: The World’s Largest Population Density Centers

What does population density look like on a global scale? These detailed 3D renders illustrate our biggest urban areas and highlight population trends.

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global population density map

A 3D Look at the Largest Population Density Centers

It can be difficult to comprehend the true sizes of megacities, or the global spread of 8 billion people, but this series of population density maps makes the picture abundantly clear.

Created using the EU’s population density data and mapping tool Aerialod by Alasdair Rae, the 3D-rendered maps highlight demographic trends and geographic constraints.

Though they appear topographical and even resemble urban areas, the maps visualize population density in squares. The height of each bar represents the number of people living in that specific square, with the global map displaying 2km x 2km squares and subsequent maps displaying 1km x 1km squares.

Each region and country tells its own demographic story, but the largest population clusters are especially illuminating.

China vs U.S. — Clusters vs Sprawl

population density spikes around China

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Zooming into the most populated country in the world, China and its surrounding neighbors demonstrate massive clusters of urbanization.

Most people are familiar with the large density centers around Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, but the concentration in central China is surprising. The cities of Chengdu and Chonqing, in the Sichuan Basin, are part of a massive population center.

Interestingly, more than 93% of China’s population lives in the Eastern half of the country. It’s a similar story in neighboring South Korea and Taiwan, where the population is clustered along the west coasts.

population density spikes in the united states

Click here to view the high resolution version.

The U.S. also has large population clusters along the coasts, but far more sprawl compared to its Asian counterparts. Though the Boston-Washington corridor is home to over 50 million residents, major centers spread out the population across the South and the Midwest.

Clearly visible are clusters in Florida (and not exclusively focused around Miami like some might believe), Illinois, Georgia, and Texas. The population is sparse in the West as expected, but California’s Los Angeles and Bay Area metros make up for the discrepancy and are just behind New York City’s density spikes in height.

India & Southeast Asia — Massive Density in Tight Areas

population density spikes around India

Click here to view the high resolution version.

At 1.38 billion people, India’s population is just behind China’s in terms of size. However, this sizable population fits into an area just one-third of China’s total land area, with the above map demonstrating what the same amount of people looks like in a smaller region.

On one hand, you still have clear clusters, such as in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangladesh’s Dhaka. On the other, there is a finite amount of room for a massive amount of people, so those density “spikes” are more like density “peaks” with the entire country covered in high density bars.

However, we can still see geographic trends. India’s population is more densely focused in the North before fading into the Himalayas. Bangladesh is equally if not more densely populated, with the exception of the protected Sundarbans mangrove forest along the coast. And Pakistan’s population seen in the distance is clustered along the Indus River.

population density spikes in Southeast Asia

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Geographic constraints have always been the biggest deciding factor when it comes to population density, and nowhere is this more apparent than Southeast Asia.

Take Indonesia, the fourth largest country by population. Despite spanning across many islands, more than half of the country’s 269 million inhabitants are clustered on the single island of Java. The metros of Jakarta and Surabaya have experienced massive growth, but spreading that growth across oceans to entirely new islands (covered by rainforests) is a tall order.

When the distance is smaller, that cross-water growth is more likely to occur. Nearby in the Philippines, more than 100 million people have densely populated a series of islands no bigger than the state of Arizona.

Indeed, despite being one of the most populated areas in the world, each country in Southeast Asia has had its own growing problems. Some are limited by space (Singapore, Philippines), while others are limited by forests (Thailand, Vietnam).

A World of Different Density Pictures

Though the above maps cover the five most populated countries on Earth, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, they only show a small part of the global picture.

As the full global density map at the top of the page highlights, the population patterns can accurately illustrate some geographic patterns and constraints, while others need further exploration.

For example, the map clearly gives an outline of Africa and the sparse area that makes up the Sahara Desert. At the same time, landmasses like Australia and New Zealand are almost invisible save for a few clusters along the coast.

To get a closer and more intricate picture of each country’s density map, head to Alasdair Rae’s long thread of rendered maps and start scrolling up to find yours!

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Misc

Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants

Here, we highlight countries that are magnets for immigration, such as UAE and Qatar, as well as nations with very few foreign born residents.

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countries with the highest proportion of immigrants

Countries with the Highest Proportion of Immigrants

For people living in cosmopolitan urban centers, it’s easy to overestimate the prevalence of immigrants around the world.

The median proportion of foreign-born people in all countries is just over 5%. In countries with a population greater than one million, only four are majority foreign-born, and only eight surpass the one-third mark.

Here are the top 20 countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates88%
🇶🇦 Qatar77%
🇰🇼 Kuwait73%
🇧🇭 Bahrain55%
🇴🇲 Oman46%
🇸🇬 Singapore43%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia39%
🇯🇴 Jordan34%
🇦🇺 Australia30%
🇨🇭 Switzerland29%
🇳🇿 New Zealand29%
🇱🇧 Lebanon25%
🇮🇱 Israel23%
🇨🇦 Canada21%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan20%
🇸🇪 Sweden20%
🇦🇹 Austria19%
🇩🇪 Germany19%
🇬🇦 Gabon19%
🇮🇪 Ireland18%

Source: UN via World Population Review. Note: Only countries with a population of greater than one million are included.

The United Arab Emirates comes out on top for the highest proportion of immigrants in its population. Impressively, the small Middle Eastern nation ranks sixth in the world for total immigrant population (8.7 million people).

Other countries on the Arabian Peninsula also rank at the top of this list. In Qatar, current host of the 2022 World Cup, 3-in-4 people are immigrants. The high proportion of foreign workers in the country also results in an extreme demographic skew—approximately 75% of the population of Qatar is male.

The one extreme outlier in the region is war-torn Yemen, where only 1.3% of the population are immigrants.

Outside the Middle East, Singapore (43%) takes top spot, followed by Australia (30%).

Spotlight on U.S. Immigration

Although the United States is outside the top 20, it still has by far the most immigrants of any other country (50 million vs. 16 million in second-place Germany).

About 15% of people in the U.S. are immigrants—numbers which are comparable to the historic high in the late 19th century. The proportion of foreign-born people in the country has been on the rise since the 1970s, and is projected to continue rising in coming decades. Around 2030, immigration is expected to surpass natural increases as a driver of population growth.

Countries with the Lowest Proportion of Immigrants

A few countries are magnets for immigration, while a great many more receive very little immigration. This can simply be due to lack of demand, or because of more extreme circumstances such as war or a failing economy. In other cases, immigration policies may limit the number of people who can migrate to a country.

Here are the top 20 countries with the lowest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇨🇺 Cuba0.03%
🇨🇳 China0.07%
🇻🇳 Vietnam0.08%
🇮🇩 Indonesia0.13%
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.13%
🇲🇲 Myanmar0.14%
🇭🇹 Haiti0.17%
🇰🇵 North Korea0.19%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.19%
🇵🇭 Philippines0.21%
🇲🇦 Morocco0.28%
🇮🇳 India0.35%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea0.35%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.37%
🇸🇴 Somalia0.37%
🇪🇷 Eritrea0.39%
🇭🇳 Honduras0.40%
🇬🇹 Guatemala0.47%
🇰🇭 Cambodia0.47%
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.51%

Cuba has the lowest level of foreign-born people in its population. The Caribbean nation makes it very difficult for foreign nationals obtain permanent residency.

China comes in second last. In absolute terms, the million or so immigrants living in China may sound like a lot, but pales in comparison to the overall population of 1.4 billion.

Interestingly, Japan–which is the poster child for low immigration–isn’t on the list above. The country’s foreign-born population sits at just over 2%.

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