What Is Gen Z: Decoding The Most-Educated Generation Yet

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Some people lump Generation Z (sometimes called Zoomers) into one big group with the Millennial Generation, simply because they’re “young people”. But while they share some similarities, Generation Z is a different entity from Millennials. As the first generation born fully in the Internet age, they’ve adopted different behaviors and mindsets compared to Millennials. 

But how is Generation Z different from the previous generation, and what can we expect from this new generation? Read on for a complete rundown on what it means to be part of the latest generation!

Where Did The Name Generation Z Come From?

The name Generation Z has simple origins. Considering the two previous generations were called Generation X and Generation Y, the next generation became Generation Z. However, unlike Millennials, there are no alternate names that really stuck in the public psyche for Gen Z. The Google Trends data also shows that Generation Z is by far the most popular name used for this cohort.

Some proposed names for this new generation are “Internet Generation”, “Pluralist Generation”, and “Post-Millennials”. Author Jean Twenge also proposed the name iGeneration due to the proliferation of Apple products. 

The Japanese built on the term Digital Natives used for Millennials, calling Gen Z by the name “Neo-Digital Natives”. The key difference posited here is that while Millennials primarily communicated through text or voice, Gen Zers use video and movies as the primary means of communication. 

People also use the term Zoomer when referring to Gen Z informally. This humorous or ironic term for young people was popularized by internet memes and came from combining the “boomer” from Baby Boomers with the “Z” from Gen Z.

How Old Are Gen Z Today?

Since it takes time for social sciences to reach a consensus, defining the birth years of generational cohorts isn’t an exact science. Despite the lack of any comparably definitive thresholds, people largely assume that Gen Z births ranged from the mid-to-late 90s to the early 2010s.

Many organizations like the Pew Research Center, BBC, and The New York Times placed Generation Z’s starting birth year at 1997 but never specified an end year. However, Pew Research Center uses 2012 as an endpoint for their 2019 research. Similarly, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and PBS used 2012 as an ending birth year for people born in this generation.

If we use the common consensus of Generation Z being born between 1997 and 2012 to determine the age range, the oldest Gen Zers would be 24 while the youngest would be 9 in 2021. 

In terms of generational relations, Generation Y or Millennials preceded Gen Zers. Meanwhile, Generation Alpha succeeded Gen Z as the youngest generation starting from the mid-2010s onward. The name “Generation Alpha” came about to mark the “newness” of a generation born entirely in the 21st century.

Gen Z And Millennials – Are They The Same?

There’s often confusion between Millennials and Generation Z. Because they’re considered as younger generations by today’s standards, many people just lump them together. While they do have similarities, they’re still two different generations with differing worldviews. 

Here are three key differences that set apart Gen Z from Gen Y:

Upbringing

A large portion of Millennials was born to Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, Generation Z was mostly born to Gen X parents. The difference in parenting styles and economic backgrounds come into play from day one with their different upbringings.

Most Baby Boomer parents were hands-on and many mothers may have been homemakers, which means the typical Millennial had a stable home life. Conversely, Gen X parents may have less stable home lives due to economic instability and both parents had to work to support the family.

The relatively unstable upbringing tends to inject the average Gen Z child with a sense of pragmatism, seeking security instead of taking risks.

Attitudes And Priorities

Gen Zers realize that material possessions can be fleeting – there one day, gone the next. That’s why they’re more likely to seek life experiences than amassing wealth to buy things. 

This mindset also extends into their purchase habits. Being born in the age of constant connectivity, many younger consumers prefer on-demand entertainment like streaming services over traditional cable or physical purchases. 

Despite being born into a digital world, Gen Zers still value face-to-face interaction. However, their definition of that term has expanded. In addition to physical meetups, they often connect with others through video-chat apps like Facetime and Zoom. 

Generation Z also doesn’t just value diversity and integration, they expect it. They’re more likely to buy from brands and support causes that align with their worldview.

Work Habits

The age of mobile devices and high-bandwidth cellular service has vastly impacted the work habits of GenZers. They’re masters of the split-task, able to work on a document on their laptop in the office, then edit it on their phone during their ride home. Thus, they’re a generation that doesn’t like (or have) to be confined to the office all the time – as long as they have a device, they can work.

A trait that Gen Y shares with Gen Z are that they have an entrepreneurial mindset. They don’t just want to work for work’s sake – they need to be in a workplace where they can develop personally as well as professionally.

Key Characteristics Of Generation Z

Each generation carries a “blueprint” or a set of characteristics that set them apart from previous generations. While we can’t say that all of Generation Z possesses these traits, here are five common characteristics exhibited by Gen Zers:

Tech-Savvy

Where Generation X was at the forefront of the computer revolution and Millennials grew into the digital age, Gen Z was born in a world of technological advances. In fact, the first iPhone launched before the oldest Gen Zers came of age. Almost all of them don’t remember life before the Internet and social media existed. 

When it comes to digital tools and technology, most members of Generation Z know how to use them. Even if they don’t know how to use it, they’ll try (and usually succeed) to figure it out.

Entrepreneurial

Generation Z’s hesitance toward supporting or contributing to big corporations leads to an increased entrepreneurial drive. A Nielsen study found that more than 50% of Gen Z wanted to start their own company instead of entering the labor force. Many reasons were cited, like being free of debt, having a purposeful life, and doing good to the planet. 

This entrepreneurial spirit may also be fueled by the accessibility of learning. Many places offer online courses that help you master skills within weeks at an affordable price. While college education is still in the cards for Gen Z, they’re more open to taking gap years or enrolling in courses that can expand their horizons.

Creative And Innovative

Gen Z’s drive to start businesses also led to an abundance of creativity. You don’t have to look far to see how creative they can get – many of them have become successful being content creators on Tiktok, Youtube, and Instagram. 

This creativity doesn’t just make money or fame for Gen Z. Many of them use creativity to deal with their issues as well. Many members of Gen Z use art to cope with adversity, whether it’s the death of a favorite celebrity, global upheaval, or their own personal problems.

Risk Averse

Growing up in a time of economic uncertainty, Gen Z is pragmatic and risk-averse. Many of them were children or teenagers during 2008’s Great Recession, and they may have seen their families struggle, which led to this attitude.

In the workplace, this translates to a need for job security and stable pay. For the members of Gen Z that decide to apply for work, they’re focused on workplace policies that can help their finances, like a 401k or student loan repayment schemes.

Inclusive

Inclusivity is built into Generation Z. More so than other generations, Gen Z believes that communities are made based on common causes and interests, not economy or education…or even geography.

With communication technology making it easy to show the world who you are, they can find friends anywhere. They don’t treat online friends differently than real-life friends – and some online friendships even end up as real-life friendships.

Historical Landmarks Of Generation Z

World events shape how we act and behave, and most events that happened in our formative years are especially memorable. Here is a slice of world history from the eyes of Generation Z.

Coronavirus Pandemic

While the entire world is affected by this pandemic over the past year, COVID-19 may be the first event to fundamentally change the world of Generation Z. Since many of them were in school or college when the pandemic hit, they had to get used to online classes and have a much tougher time meeting up with friends and family.

Since this is still an ongoing event, we can’t really tell how this pandemic will affect them. However, recent studies have shown a rise in mental health issues among Gen Z.

Increasing Attention To Climate Change

Despite their youth, Generation Z isn’t afraid to let their voices be heard on the issues they care about. Take Greta Thunberg, for example. The Swedish environmental activist rose to fame with her rallies and addresses about climate change at the age of 15. The Fridays for Future strikes for action on climate change received worldwide attention, and she even made speeches at the UN’s climate change summits. 

However, this increased attention to climate change isn’t just limited to Thunberg. Pew Research Center finds that Generation Z and Millennials agree that governments should prioritize addressing climate change to ensure the planet’s sustainability. They’re also more likely to believe that climate change is caused by humans rather than natural patterns.

Rise In Activism Efforts

Growing up in a country with a black president and increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, Generation Z (especially in the United States) is very aware and vocal about key social justice issues. Moreover, most of Gen Z views social justice as a basic human right, not a radical idea. 

Many of them also don’t hesitate to voice their political opinions, typically through social media. They don’t limit their activism to online spaces, either. Many of them take part in efforts to build safe spaces for marginalized groups in their schools and workplaces, proving that they’re also solving problems instead of just talking about them.

For the most part, Gen Z and Millennials stand on the same side when it comes to these social and political issues. These two groups also often collaborate in their activism.

Increased Gun Violence

Gun violence in America is a very serious problem. As a response to the mass shooting incidents that happened in the past few years, many members of Generation Z have taken to activism in favor of gun control. Events organized by students like March For Our Lives have even gained attention and support from many celebrities.

The Future Of Generation Z

The older members of Generation Z will be 24 in 2021. This means that there’s so much in store for their future, and we don’t know everything about them yet. However, some important characteristics may give us a peek into this generation’s future.

Racial Diversity

Generation Z is far more diverse compared to older generations. A Pew Research Center survey in 2019 shows that only 52% or about half of Gen Zers identify as white. Hispanics make up about a quarter of the population, with black, Asian, and other races making up the rest. 

Gen Zers in America is the most ethnically diverse generation yet. This has been shown to lead to better racial relationships, and Gen Zers may be on track to become the most tolerant yet about racial issues.

Stance On Gender Issues

Much like Millennials, the new generation’s views on gay marriage are generally positive. Compared to the one-third of Gen X and the quarter of Baby Boomers who say the same thing, almost half of Gen Z and Millennials think gay and lesbian couples are a good thing for society. 

Gen Z is also much more open about their gender identity and expression. Many of them are more likely to know gender-neutral or gender-nonconforming people. Most also agree that online forms that ask for a person’s gender should have more options than just “man” and “woman”.

Education

This generation may be on track to be the best-educated generation. About 57% of Gen Zers not in high school were enrolled in college, a slight increase compared to the 52% of Millennials at the same stage of life. 

This may stem from the prevalence of college degrees among their parents compared to the preceding generation. 44% of Gen Z report that they live with a parent who has at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to Millennials’ 33%.

Closing Thoughts

There’s still so much we don’t know about Gen Z since it takes time for lasting generational imprints to completely “set” in Gen Zers. However, what we do know is that they’re on track to becoming the most tolerant and most-educated generation of all time. If you’re part of older generations, this might be a good time to impart some wisdom so they stay on the right track.

If you’ve ever been curious about how different the youth of older generations are compared to Generation Z, you may want to dig up some old photos. To make sure that your old photos look the best, be sure to restore them first at Image Restoration Center.

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