• Visual Capitalist's Generational Power Index Report 2021 uncovers which generation in the U.S. wields the most cultural power and influence.
  • It found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power.
  • Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, with roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 being Gen X.
  • Over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen X CEO.
  • Baby Boomers have particular dominance in traditional entertainment, as 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-sellers list were Baby Boomers.

Which U.S. generation wields the most cultural power?

This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.

We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—cultural influence is a different story.

Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.

Generations and power, defined

Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.

a chart defining different generations
These age groups were used as a frame group for the study.
Image: Visual Capitalist

Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:

a chart showing influence among industry
Gen X is the most dominant in the most areas.
Image: Visual Capitalist

With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.

Share of cultural power by generation

Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.

a chart showing the different levels of power different generations have
Gex wield the most cultural power.
Image: Visual Capitalist

Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.

Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.

However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.

The dominance of digital

Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).

a chart showing the digital takeover of media
Digital media has swiftly taken over traditional forms.
Image: Visual Capitalist

In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.

This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.

digital, COVID-19, EDISON Alliance

EDISON Alliance: What is the Forum doing to close the digital gap?

COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities globally and exacerbated the digital divide. Nearly half of the world is still not online.

With more basic services moving online and the pandemic highlighting affordability challenges in wealthier nations, these deep digital gaps are exacerbating inequality and preventing the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At The Davos Agenda, the World Economic Forum launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

The EDISON Alliance will prioritize digital inclusion as the platform of platforms for partners with a common purpose for achieving the SDGs. Its vision is to ensure that every person can affordably participate in the digital economy.

Celebrity 2.0: The social influencer

As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.

In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.

a chart showing the growth of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing has boomed.
Image: Visual Capitalist

This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.

With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.