people from different generations

The Silent Generation, Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z—which one do you fall into? Much like your star sign, you don’t actually get to decide which group welcomes you into its ranks. But it’s fair to say that your generation dictates far more than just your age range.

In this article, we’re sharing why we're all so obsessed with the generations, how and why your generations impact your views and values, and the reason your outlook may not align with your peers. And if you've ever felt more X than Z, more Z than Millennial, or more Boomer than any of the above, keep reading to learn how you can find your ‘true’ generation with our latest test.  

Why do generational stereotypes exist?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know a thing or two about generational stereotypes. Boomers don’t know how to use technology. Millennials spend all their money on avocado toast. Gen Z are addicted to their phone screens. You know the drill.

While stereotypes can range from funny to downright harmful, there is truth in the idea that people of different generations have different perspectives. This theory has been around since the early 1990s and is developing all of the time.

"Sociologists like Strauss and Howe have long theorized that different generations demonstrate differing values, beliefs and even personality traits. However, actual empirical research on the differences between generations is sparse,” explains Molly Owens, Truity Founder and CEO.

We set out to fill that gap. For our latest data-driven measure, the team has stepped away from the stereotypes to look at the tangible differences between each generation, using millions of data points to understand people’s views.

“We wanted to gather robust data that would allow us to map real, measurable differences in attitudes and behavior across generations—allowing us to understand how different cohorts may vary in everything from their attitudes towards work to their preferences in voting," Owens says. The findings show that each generation may be prone to a unique set of views.

How big events impact and create generations

The Great Depression, 9/11 and the emergence of modern technology—each event significantly impacted the generations who lived through them. Looking at the Stauss and Howe theory, the idea is that milestones like these create recurring generational personas. In short, we are each a product of our environment, which changes year upon year.

Our data-driven measure supports this concept, highlighting an interesting correlation between your birth year and your general attitudes. As Abby Lunardini, Truity's CMO, puts it, “One of the more interesting things to me was just how much these societal events or big economic events that were happening in your generation really do shape a lot of your values.”

According to generational theory, each new era lasts between 20 and 25 years. During that period, a unique social, political and economic climate will emerge, often having a direct impact on those living through it. And it makes sense. The social and economic backdrop of our childhoods will surely affect how we see the world, our values and how we live our lives as a result.

What are the major generational differences?

You already know the stereotypes, but let’s look at the actual trends in each generation. An initial analysis of the research emphasizes some intriguing gaps between the generations. So, what does the data show?

1. Younger generations have less self-control

Whether it’s making impulse purchases, eating junk food or staying in bed longer than you know you should, struggling with self-control can be challenging. If you find it tricky to harness your willpower, you might be part of the younger generations. The analysis shows that the oldest generation, the Silent Generation, has the highest levels of self-control, while the youngest, Generation Z, has the lowest.

2. Gen Z craves recognition and influence

If you’re wondering how social media has impacted the generations, we might just have the answer. Generation Z—the first generation to grow up entirely with the internet at their fingertips—has the highest desire levels for recognition and influence over others. That contrasts with Boomers, who have the lowest score on these measures.

3. Millennials feel that they are unique

Do you feel like you’re an outsider? Perhaps you’ve strayed from the norm and lost your pack? If you recognize this sense of exceptionality, you might be a Millennial. According to the analysis, this generation has the highest feelings of uniqueness, whereas the Silent Generation has the lowest overall.

4. Gen X rejects social norms

Generation X scores high on independence and the rejection of social norms. This generation is well-known for being “America’s middle child” or the “latch-key kids,” with plenty of self-reliance and rebellious traits. The analysis shows that they are individualistic, informal and skeptical.

5. Boomers lean towards traditionalism

While you might think that the Silent Generation is the most traditional, the analysis found that Boomers come out on top. Unsurprisingly, the youngest generation, Generation Z, has the lowest score with a stronger leaning towards innovation than tradition.

The True Generation test, explained

To create the True Generations test, the Truity team used millions of data points, their intuition and the prevailing theories about generational stereotypes. This culminated in an initial exploratory test, which allowed the team to gather insightful data on how each generation’s outlook measured up. 

By combining this with the magic of machine learning, they were able to create the final test. 

“This was one of the first tests that we've launched that uses machine learning from the ground up,” says Cameron Berg, lead researcher. “But it's also interpretable.”

As he explains, one of the major problems with researchers using machine learning is that it can become something of a ‘black box’. In simple terms, that means you input loads of data, and the machine gives you predictions. However, it is often hard to interpret and understand.

“We have walked a nice middle path,” says Berg. “We did it in a way that's sophisticated and interpretable. And it's very data-driven, so I'm very happy about this test.”

Drawing upon the data-driven measure and previous work, we have created a set of questions that strongly predict a person’s generation. When taking the test, your results are measured against the generational trend. The quiz uses a machine-learning model to then predict the generation with which your views align most closely. 

This likely will be the generation you were born into, but there are always people who go against the grain!

Find your True Generation now

Suspect you were born in the wrong generation? If your outlook and values don’t match those of your peers, you may be right. 

The True Generations Test can accurately predict the generation you were born into most of the time. However, if you have varying values to your generation, you may well be what’s known as an ‘outlier’. You might have been born in the wrong time.

“We found that about 70% of our users fit within the generation they were actually born in; the remaining 30% were outliers, sharing more characteristics with people either older or younger than their chronological age," explains Owens.

Intrigued? You should be. Whether you have old-timey views or are ahead of the curve, it could pay dividends to know your ‘true’ generation. You might find that you were born too late and naturally get along with people in the generation above you, for example. On the other hand, you could realize that your outlook is better matched to younger people. Whatever the case, understanding which generation suits your values is certain to be a beneficial move.

“We all know someone who seems to be transported from a different era—the old soul or the person born before their time. This quiz is the first of its kind that can accurately validate the sense that you may have been born in the wrong era. It’s fascinating to see the specific traits that may drive a sense of being out of place within your generation,” says Owens.

“We also hope it will help illuminate and destigmatize the real differences between generations and perhaps facilitate a more productive discussion about how we can communicate and relate across generations." 

Want to know where you truly belong on the generational timeline? You can find your ‘true’ generation with our free test.

For more on the methodology behind the test and a description of each generational cohort, read here.

Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer, having previously been published in Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Brides Magazine and the Metro. Her articles vary from relationship and lifestyle topics to personal finance and careers. She is an unquestionable ENFJ, an avid reader, a fully-fledged coffee addict and a cat lover. Charlotte has a BA in Journalism and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Sheffield.