How Much Does Age Factor into Identity?

April 22, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Asian-American | Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Hispanic | Household Income | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

Marketers tend to focus a lot on segmenting by demographics such as age, even though most Millennials don’t even identify as Millennials, and a young Gen Xer might feel more culturally similar to Gen Y. A new study from Ipsos entitled the Future of Identity [pdf] reveals some interesting insights into how people form their identities.

The report asked adults how important various internal and external factors are in forming how they think about themselves. As it turns out, age matters more than socioeconomic status and race, though not uniformly.

Overall, roughly 6 in 10 respondents (59%) said that age is either very or somewhat important in how they think about themselves, with this figure relatively consistent across age groups: 18-34 (61%); 35-45 (56%); and 55+ (60%).

By comparison, socioeconomic status matters less to people in how they form their identities, with fewer than half (45%) saying that this is an important element. However, there is much more stratification in socioeconomic status (much as there is in society…) Indeed, there appears to be a correlation between increased household income and propensity to have this be part of one’s identity. While fewer than half of adults with household income under $50K (40%) or between $50K and $100K (46%) say that this is an important factor in identity formation, that figure jumps to 58% among those with household income of at least $100K, and inches higher to 59% among those with household income of at least $125K.

There’s also a large amount of variance when examining how people of different races and ethnicities respond to this question. Overall, only about 4 in 10 adults surveyed say this is an important part of their identity, but that average masks significant differences.

Just 1 in 3 (35%) White, non-Hispanic adults say that their race is an important part of how they think about themselves. By contrast, two-thirds of Black, non-Hispanic adults say their race is an important part of their identity formation, as do half (50%) of Hispanic adults. Fewer (44%) Asian Americans agree, although Ipsos cautions that the sample size for this group is small.

Overall, the most important factors in determining identity formation for respondents are life experience, health and fitness level, psychology, and religion/spirituality. The next tier included gender, ability or medical conditions, relationship status, and parental status.

Other Findings:

  • Almost half of men surveyed said that sports or other fandom is an important part of their identity, compared to about one-quarter of women.
  • 1 in 3 people who put “religion” as a leading factor in their identity ranked it as their top element. Fewer people said that their occupation or career is a key component.
  • More than 6 in 10 (62% of) adults ages 18-34 say that the groups they join are important to how they express who they are.
  • More than 4 in 10 (42% of) adults ages 18-34 are interested in a virtual identity such as an avatar to express their identity online, versus one-quarter (25%) of adults overall.
  • Some 64% of respondents don’t identify with people they see in popular culture, versus 36% who do.
  • More than 1 in 5 (22% of) adults don’t feel free to express their true identity in their daily life.

About the Data: The results are based on a March survey of 3,015 US adults (18+).

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