Most Millennials and Gen Zers don't place themselves within their usual generational group

Brad JonesSenior Research Director, Scientific Research
March 18, 2024, 8:46 PM GMT+0

Academics, journalists, and other thought leaders often refer to people who were born within a certain range of years as being part of the same generation, complete with generational names such as Baby Boomers and Generation Z. While there is no universally accepted way to assign people to generations based on their birth year, one of the most popular classifications comes out of Pew Research’s work on generations — although Pew has now moved away from a focus on generations.

A new survey conducted by YouGov among 13,083 adults finds that 58% of Americans identify with the same generational group, as defined by Pew, that would be applied to them by most researchers. About one-quarter (27%) select some other label — most often the generation immediately younger or older than their own — and the remaining 15% say they are not sure. Members of different generations differ in their likelihood of identifying themselves with the label usually applied to them — in some cases, differing by large amounts.

The overwhelming majority of Baby Boomers — defined here as people born between 1946 and 1964 — consider themselves part of that generation. On the other hand, only about four in 10 people born since 1981 identify themselves with the generation that they are typically associated with: Millennials for those born between 1981 and 1996 and Generation Z for adults born in 1997 or later. These results are in line with previous research on this topic. Those born prior to 1946 were the least likely to identify with their generation: the somewhat unflatteringly named Silent Generation. (There were not enough members of the Greatest Generation included in the survey to get meaningful results for that group; the youngest among them were born in 1927). Overall, 15% of respondents say they aren’t sure which generation label should apply to them. Baby Boomers were about half as likely to say they didn’t know which label should apply to them.

When it comes to how much people feel they have in common with others in their generation, most people agree that they share at least some things in common. Older people are more likely to say this than are younger adults. Overall, about two-thirds of Generation Z say that they share at least some things in common with other people in their generation — including 30% who say they have “a great deal” in common — compared to more than 80% of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation who say that have some or a great deal of things in common with other members of their generation.

Which generation do people feel they have the most in common with? The most commonly named generation for nearly every group is members of the same generation. The only exception to this general pattern is the Silent Generation: Its members are substantially more likely to say they have more in common with the Baby Boomers or the Greatest Generation than with members of their own generation.

— David H. Montgomery contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll:

Methodology: The Daily Questions survey was conducted online on February 29 - March 1, 2024 among 13,038 U.S. adults. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

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