Were you born in the wrong generation? 

It’s no secret that different generations have stereotypes based on perceived characteristics and values. For example, we all know that Millennials are obsessed with avocado toast — and Baby Boomers are obsessed with complaining about how much Millennials love to eat avocado toast. 

But which generational tropes hold up? And how typical is it for an individual to resonate with their actual generation’s values? After digging into existing generational literature and theories developed by sociological researchers, we developed the True Generation test. This free test identifies your “true generation” based on how well your values and attitudes match with the idealized profile of each living generation: Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomer and Silent. 

If you think it sounds a little extreme to categorize a group that’s comprised of millions of unique individuals, then you should know that is not the goal of the test. The True Generation test is not a personality test, and it’s also not meant to generalize every individual based on which twenty-year era they were born in. 

Instead, we were interested in how collective values are shaped by factors such as historical events, cultural trends and personal experiences. We looked at existing models like the Strauss–Howe generational theory and recent research examining generational differences. What we found were some patterns that offer a solid glimpse of each generation’s core values. 

From your working style (the “Puritan work ethic” belongs to the Boomers and Silents; Gen X, Millennials and Zoomers are all about that work/life balance) to how you vote (Gen Z and Millennials are increasingly liberal), generational values do shape individuals and society. 

“Research shows that each generation has its own characteristic set of values, shaped by the historical, social and economic factors experienced during that generation’s formative years,” said Molly Owens, CEO and Founder of Truity. 

“After mapping these values from existing literature, we went a step further to outline how behaviors and attitudes could be linked with these generational values. We all know someone who just seems to be transported from a different era — the old soul, or the person born before their time. We thought it would be fun and illuminating to find a way to quantify how well you fit into the generation you were born in — as well as the generation where you really belong!”

Overview of Generations 

Before we look at each generation, a few disclaimers: 

  • Generational cut-off points aren’t a science and there is some debate on when each generation begins and ends, particularly for the Gen Z and Millennial generations. For our research, we defined the generational cohorts based on the dates provided by the Pew Research Center, which has conducted a significant amount of generational research. 
  • While there are some living members of the Greatest Generation (born before 1928), their modern societal influence is less prominent than the five generations we researched. We also excluded Generation Alpha, the generation that represents those under 12. 
  • And finally, you may be technically part of a generation and share very few of its values. That’s not uncommon at all (we’re looking at all the “old souls” and “young at hearts” out there). If that’s you, take the test to find out what generation you belong in. 

Gen Z (Born between 1997-2012) 

“Don’t try so hard to fit in, and certainly don’t try so hard to be different. Just be you.” — Zendaya  

It’s the authenticity for Gen Z. Gen Z is the first generation to be born into an entirely digital world. They’re more educated, tech-savvy and less happy than previous generations. According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the United States. Like Millennials, they tend to share pro-government and politically liberal values. 

Generational literature describes Gen Z as flexible, creative and independent. The Strauss–Howe model calls Gen Z an artist generation, as they were born and raised during a time of societal unrest and are channeling their energy into creative endeavors such as art, music and storytelling on platforms like TikTok. From a historical standpoint, Gen Z’s values are influenced by events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, gun violence in schools, and the rise in social media and artificial intelligence. 

Values-driven Zoomers strive to live by their principles and expect the same from the brands they consume and the organizations for which they work. While still young, Gen Z is already leading movements on climate change (climate activist Greta Thunberg launched a global campaign by boycotting school) and gun reform (see the movement launched by Parkland high schoolers). 

Millennials (Born between 1981-1996)

“I'm intimidated by the fear of being average.” — Taylor Swift

For the past thirty years, the conversation around Millennials was mainly focused on the generation as one of coddled children, entitled thanks to participation trophies and helicopter parents. But now, Millennials are all grown up — and they’re America’s largest generation at over 72 million people. Millennials were the first generation to grow up with the internet. They’re tech-savvy, collaborative and socially conscious. They’re also less likely to embrace traditional social expectations — Millennials are less likely to be married, are more likely to live with their parents as adults, and are waiting longer to have children than previous generations. 

Most generational literature describes Millennials as optimistic, open-minded, achievement-oriented and collaborative. Millennials value teamwork and civic engagement while championing causes like healthy work-life balance and diversity. They are unique in their collectivistic values, leading mass movements centered around minority or lesser-heard voices like Black Lives Matter, #metoo, immigration reform and LGBTQ+ rights. 

Strauss and Howe call Millennials the hero generation, as many Millennials are stepping into positions of power and leadership and feel responsible for fixing the issues society faces today. Millennial values are shaped by historical events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, the Great Recession and the rise of the internet and social media. 

Gen X (Born between 1965 and 1980)

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” — Kurt Cobain

Because of its smaller size and influence compared to other generations, Gen X is sometimes called the “forgotten middle child” of the generations. But don’t let the stereotype fool you — Gen X makes up one-fifth of the population and has significantly contributed to technology and societal change. 

Generational literature describes Gen Xers as individualistic, informal, innovative and skeptical. Strauss and Howe call Gen X the nomad generation, as they were often under-protected and neglected as children (i.e., “latch-key” children of the 1970 and 80s). Because of this, Gen Xers grew up with an individualistic nature and distrust of large groups and institutions. While coming of age, Gen Xers experienced such historical events as the Cold War, the AIDS epidemic, space exploration, the development of the personal computer and rise of the internet. 

Criticized for being slackers, Gen X refused to subscribe to the workaholic mentality of previous generations. They led the way in normalizing unconventional career paths, with many of this generation embracing entrepreneurship. Unlike the civic-minded generations on either side of them, Gen X is less politically engaged but made strides in the workplace fighting for work/life balance, diversity and technological advancement. 

Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964) 

“We live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.” — Tom Hanks 

The Baby Boomer generation is known for being big — both in terms of its literal size and its societal impact. Boomers were the first generation in the U.S. to grow up with television, have disposable income and to expect that they would have a better life than their parents. As children and young adults, Baby Boomers experienced major historical events such as the Vietnam War, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Sexual Revolution. 

Generational literature describes Baby Boomers as optimistic, competitive and curious. This generation values a strong work ethic, teamwork and personal responsibility. The Strauss–Howe model calls Baby Boomers a prophet generation because they were born after a crisis (World War II) and are known for their idealism and desire to make a difference in the world.

Their optimism led Baby Boomers to participate in many social and political movements. The generation’s activism is responsible for some of the most significant social changes of the 20th century, including the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, the legalization of abortion and the end of the Vietnam War. Baby Boomers questioned and rethought traditional methods in business and politics, modernizing existing fields and constructing new industries like tech and the wellness industry. 

Silent Generation (Born between 1928 and 1945)

“The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.” — Morgan Freeman

Children of the Great Depression and World War II, their “Silent” label refers to their image as a conforming and civic-minded generation. Living through war and hardship, the Silent Generation, also known as Traditionalists, came to value patriotism, loyalty and a strong work ethic. An overall smaller generation, scholars believe the low birth rate was due to the uncertainty and challenging conditions of the period. 

Generational literature describes this generation as dependable, straightforward, loyal and obedient.  Some historical events that significantly impacted the Silent Generation are the Great Depression, McCarthyism and the Red Scare, and World War II. 

Strauss and Howe describe this generation as coming of age “too late to be war heroes and just too early to be youthful free spirits.” They entered adulthood as risk-averse professionals and homemakers who understood that following the status quo was their ticket to success. The generation is known for being frugal and saving rather than spending, which sets them apart from their Baby Boomer children. 

Why Do Generational Values Matter?

Today it feels as if we are more fractured along generational lines than ever before, but by understanding generational values, we may be more able to understand current societal issues, let go of the judgments and biases we hold for the generations that come before and after ours, and have a bit more empathy for those who see the world in different ways. 

What’s your true generation? Take the free test here

Megan Malone
Megan holds an MS in organizational psychology and manages content and brand marketing at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.