Gen X 2019

It’s Still Stupid to Ignore Them

About This Report
Yes, Xers are outnumbered by millennials and boomers. But in mid-career and often with family households, Gen Xers are—or should be—a key target for marketers. Despite above-average earnings, tight finances mean they won’t part with their money lightly.

Executive Summary

It never made much sense for marketers to ignore Generation X, and it makes even less sense now that Xer households earn and spend more than other age groups. But Xers are also financially stressed, so a marketer must give them a good reason to buy. When Xers do spend, they often use digital tools to get the most for their money. (We define Gen Xers as those born between 1965 and 1980. Some other research firms use different age ranges, and these are noted throughout this report.)

Do Gen Xers make much money?

They do. Federal figures show Xer households with yearly incomes averaging slightly more than $100,000—nearly $25,000 more than the average for total households. One reason is that Xer households often have two earners, more so than other generations.

Does that mean Gen Xers are in good financial shape?

Not exactly. Their above-average incomes come in tandem with high levels of debt. And it’s not just mortgages, though about half have those. Xers also carry lots of credit card debt, and many have car loans. Student debt (for themselves and their kids) is also a burden. Many also feel they haven’t recovered from the Great Recession.

Are Xers big spenders?

Average yearly spending by Xer households is well above the average for total households, $73,681 vs. $60,815. With larger-than-average households, they spend above-average amounts in nearly all consumer categories. But being big spenders does not mean being free spenders. Digital commerce appeals to them partly because it helps them find low prices.

Do smartphones figure into Xers’ shopping?

Naturally. Many use retail apps to gather information about goods, as well as to transact purchases. They also use phones to streamline their holiday shopping.

How digital a cohort are Xers?

Nearly all are internet users. Large majorities are smartphone and social users. Digital video is a significant part of their entertainment mix. But they have not abandoned traditional TV.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Gen X’s finances. It examines their spending, how they use digital tools for shopping and traces the contours of their device and media usage.

KEY STAT: The recession’s effects linger for a significant proportion of Gen Xers, undercutting their purchasing power and compromising their ability to save for retirement. Fewer than four in 10 Gen X internet users feel fully recovered or never affected by the Great Recession.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Unforget Them
  3. Auditing Gen X’s Finances
  4. Gauging Xers’ Behavior as Shoppers
  1. Mapping Xers’ Media and Device Usage
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  4. Read Next
  1. Sources
  2. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Catherine Collinson
Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies
Interviewed June 10, 2019
Jeff Loucks
Executive Director for Technology, Media and Telecommunications
Interviewed June 7, 2019
Gillian MacPherson
Vice President, Digital Product and Strategy
Interviewed June 7, 2019
Greg McBride
Chief Financial Analyst
Interviewed June 10, 2019
Ericka Podesta McCoy
Interviewed June 10, 2019

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Lucy Koch
Junior Analyst
Andrew Lipsman
Principal Analyst
Oscar Orozco
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Jennifer Pearson
VP, Research
Monica Peart
Senior Director, Forecasting
Shelleen Shum
Director, Forecasting
Debra Aho Williamson
Principal Analyst