Data Dive: Gen X myths vs. realities

In five infographics, we uncover interesting insights into the generation that came of age as the Berlin Wall fell and the internet rose.

Ipsos | Gen X
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  • Melissa Dunne Public Affairs
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Many once-moody Generation Xers* now have moody teens of their own.

The generation that grew up watching music videos on the family TV and tying up the house landline (either chatting with friends on the phone or surfing on the World Wide Web) are now well into middle age.

Most long ago ditched the slouchy plaid shirts and slacker attitude and are increasingly donning suits and stepping into middle management and leadership roles around the world.

Gen X is sometimes called the “forgotten generation,” but they’re increasingly influential and Ipsos’ new global report, We Need to Talk About Generations, breaks down beliefs surrounding this busy cohort as well as diving into thinking about Generation Zers, Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Here’s a look at what recent Ipsos Global Advisor polling finds about the generation that had a lot to feel disaffected about (the First Gulf War, a recession, the HIV/AIDS epidemic), as well as much to feel optimistic about (the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, expanding access to the internet) as they matured in an increasingly intertwined world.

  1. Myth:
    Like their Gen Z offspring, many Gen Xers have very liberal views on a range of transgender issues.

    There’s strong consensus among all generations — Gen Z (76%, on average across 30 countries), Millennials (75%), Gen X (76%) and Boomers (77%) — that transgender people should be protected from discrimination in employment, housing and access to businesses such as restaurants and stores.

    But, small cracks appear if you look closer.

    Ipsos’ 2023 Pride Month global polling findsGen Zers are the most supportive of a range of trans issues, including gender-affirming care, while older generations are generally slightly less so.Ipsos | Gen X

  2. Myth:
    Gen Xers all rolled their eyes at authority growing up and they remain more skeptical of both business and government than other generations.

    Many around the world and across generations tend not to trust corporations or politicians, with trustworthiness levels remaining fairly low for an array of public and private entities year after year.

    Like other age groups, a significantly higher proportion of Gen Xers tend to trust for-profit business sectors, such as pharmaceuticals (33%, on average across 21 countries), food/drinks (32%) and retail (32%), than trust the government (20%).Ipsos | Gen X

  3. Myth:
    Gen Xers are increasingly filling boardrooms and corner offices after decades of working their way up the corporate ladder and therefore the vast majority are now living on easy street financially.

    People of all ages and stages are feeling the pinch as the cost-of-living crisis grinds on.

    While mid-to-late career Gen Xers are likely earning substantially more than Gen Z interns, they also likely have substantially higher monthly bills (from mortgages to car loans to family-sized grocery bills).

    The latest edition of the Ipsos Global Inflation Monitor finds one in three (33%, on average across 29 countries) Gen Xers say they are living comfortably/doing alright financially, compared to 42% of Boomers, 36% of Millennials and 36% of Gen Zers who say the same.Ipsos | Gen X

  4. Myth:
    If apathetic Gen Xers believe in anything, it’s certainly not religion.

    The percentage of atheists is pretty steady across the generations, with just over one in five (21%, on average across 26 countries) Gen Xers saying they don’t believe in God/or in a higher power or spirit of any kind versus 23% of Boomers, 20% of Millennials and 19% of Gen Zers.

    And almost half of Gen Xers (46%) agree religion does more harm in the world than good, pretty much in line with Gen Zers (45%), Millennials (47%) and Boomers (49%).Ipsos | Gen X

  5. Myth:
    Anxious Gen X parents are collectively staying up at night worried that life will be significantly harder for their Gen Z offspring currently maturing amid sticky inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine.

    There’s certainly a lot to feel anxious about right now (just as there was when Gen Xers were young), yet the majority across age demographics are optimistic life will turn out to be better, or at least the same, for young men and women today.

    Some are less sunny.

    A quarter (25%, on average across 29 countries) of Gen Xers are worried life will be worse for young men today than it was for men from their parents’ generation (compared to 27% of Boomers, 24% of Millennials and 20% of Gen Zers who say the same).

    A slightly lower proportion of Gen Xers (20%, vs. 21% of Boomers, 19% of Millennials and 17% of Gen Zers) think life will be worse for young women today than it was for women from their parents’ generationIpsos | Gen X

Curious about common misconceptions and what our global polling reveals about other generations? Check out the rest of the series: Data Dive: Gen Z myths vs. realitiesData Dive: Millennial myths vs. realities and Data Dive: Baby Boomer myths vs. realities.

*Generation Alpha (born after 2012), Generation Z (born between 1996-2012), Millennials (born between 1980-1995), Generation X (born between 1966-1979), Baby Boomers (born between 1945-1965) and Pre-War Generation (born between 1928-1944).

The author(s)
  • Melissa Dunne Public Affairs