• April 22, 2024

What We Now Know About Generation Z

In the 2020 election, 10% of eligible voters will belong to Generation Z, a new American generation. Although the majority of this generation—those born after 1996—are not yet old enough to vote, some 24 million of them will get the chance to do so in November when the oldest among them turns 23 this year. And when more and more of them become eligible to vote, their political influence will only increase over the next several years.

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This new generation, in contrast to the Millennials, who grew up during the Great Recession, was expected to inherit a robust economy with historically low unemployment. All of that has now altered as COVID-19 has altered the social, political, and economic climate of the nation. Gen Z now glances into an uncertain future rather than a world of opportunity.

There are indications that the elder members of Generation Z were disproportionately affected during the initial weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in March 2020, half of the oldest Gen Zers (those between the ages of 18 and 23) said that the epidemic has resulted in a job loss or income reduction for them or a family member. This was far more than the percentages of Baby Boomers (25%) and Gen Xers (36%) and Millennials (40%), who had the same sentiment. Furthermore, because they were disproportionately employed in high-risk service sector businesses prior to the coronavirus epidemic, an examination of employment data revealed that young workers were especially susceptible to losing their jobs.

What do we know about Gen Z, other from the particular conditions under which they are reaching adulthood? While there are undoubtedly some significant differences between it and earlier generations, there are also numerous similarities with the Millennial generation that before it. In addition to being the most varied generation in terms of race and ethnicity, Gen Z is expected to be the most educated generation in history. They are also digital natives, meaning they barely remember a world without cellphones.

Still, they resemble Millennials in their opinions on important social and political problems. More than a year before the coronavirus outbreak, in the fall of 2018, Pew Research Center conducted surveys among Americans aged 13 and older. The results showed that Gen Zers, like Millennials, are progressive and pro-government, that most of them view the nation’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity as a positive development, and that they are less likely than older generations to believe that the United States is better than other countries.1.

Further understanding of Gen Z voters’ political views may be gained by examining their perceptions of the Trump administration. According to a January 2018 Pew Research Center study, over 25% of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 23 approved of Donald Trump’s performance as president, while roughly 77% disapproved. The percentage of millennial voters who approved of Trump (32%) was only somewhat higher than the percentage of Gen X voters (42%), Baby Boomers (48%), and Silent Generation voters (57%).

Compared to other generations, Gen Z is more varied in terms of race and ethnicity.

Leading the way in the nation’s shifting racial and ethnic composition is Generation Z. Just 52% of Millennials identify as non-Hispanic white, which is much less than the 61% of Millennials who did so in 2002. Among Gen Zers, 14% are Black, 6% are Asian, 5% are some other race, and 1% are Hispanic.

Compared to Millennials, Gen Zers are marginally less likely to be immigrants: at the same age, 6% of Gen Zers and 7% of Millennials were born outside of the United States. However, given that 22% of Gen Zers have at least one immigrant parent (compared to 14% of Millennials), it is more likely that they are the offspring of immigrants. Even if the number of immigrants entering the country has decreased recently, Gen Z will continue to grow in the coming years. As a result, by 2026, the Census Bureau projects that this generation will be mostly non-White.

Gen Z has already surpassed this barrier in certain areas of the United States. Just 40% of Gen Zers in the West are non-Hispanic white. Ten percent are Asian, six percent are Black, and the remaining four percent are Hispanic. Non-Hispanic whites make up 46% of Gen Zers in the South. In the Midwest, where non-Hispanic whites make up more than two-thirds of Gen Zers (68%) and minority presence is lowest.

It looks like Generation Z will be the most educated yet.

Compared to previous generations, elder members of Generation Z appear to be following a slightly different educational path. They have a higher likelihood of enrolling in college and a lower likelihood of dropping out of high school. In 2018, 57% of 18 to 21-year-olds who had dropped out of high school were enrolled in a two- or four-year college. This is in contrast to 43% of Gen Xers in 1987 and 52% of Millennials in 2003.

There is a connection between these shifting educational trends and changes in immigration, particularly among Hispanics. Research from the past indicates that second-generation Hispanic adolescents are more likely to attend college and are less likely to drop out of high school than Hispanic youth who were born abroad. Gen Z Hispanics are also less likely to be immigrants than Millennial Hispanics.

In comparison to earlier youth generations, Gen Zers are also more likely to have parents who have completed college. Compared to 33% of Millennials of the same age in 2019, 44% of Gen Zers, or those aged 7 to 17, lived with a parent who held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The general trend in which more Americans are seeking higher education is reflected in both of these developments.

Gen Zers are less likely than previous generations to be working while they are adolescents and young adults, maybe because they are more likely to be pursuing educational goals. In contrast to 27% of Millennial kids in 2002 and 41% of Gen Xers in 1986, just 18% of Gen Z youths (those between the ages of 15 and 17) had a job in 2018. Furthermore, of young individuals between the ages of 18 and 22, more Millennials (71%) and Gen Xers (79%) than Gen Zers (62%), who were employed in 2018.

Millennials and Gen Zers share opinions on a wide range of contemporary problems.

In many aspects, Gen Z’s opinions are similar to those of Millennials. However, survey data from 2018—well before the coronavirus outbreak—indicates that there are certain contexts in which the younger generation is more noticeable for having a somewhat different perspective.

For instance, Gen Zers are more prone than prior generations to seek to the government than to private companies or people to solve problems. Fully 7 out of 10 Gen Zers believe that more should be done by the government to address issues, while 29% believe that too many things are best left to the hands of people and corporations. The belief that government should take greater action to tackle issues is held by a considerably lesser percentage of Millennials (64%) than by prior generations (53% of Gen Xers, 49% of Boomers, and 39% of Silents).