WHO ARE GEN Z?
Photo: Cynthia Del Rio
WHEN WERE THEY BORN?
There are 2 Billion world-wide Gen Z’s and one-quarter of them make up the North American population. They are greater in number than the millennials and the eldest in this generation are entering their senior year in college. Loosely defined, they are the generation born after 1995. Gen Z, as it has come to be known, has a few other potential labels, including Gen Tech, post-Millennials, iGeneration, Gen Y-Fi and the Homeland Generation.
In addition to the dispute about the label of Generation Z, demographers also argue about the start and end dates for a generational cohort. In most research, Gen Z were born anywhere from the early ’90s to the mid-2000s. Marketers and trend forecasters often characterize this group as a roughly 15-year time block starting around 1995, making them 5 to 20 years old now. (By that definition, millennials were born between about 1980 and 1995, and are roughly 20 to 35 now).
Savers not spenders. Big Influencers on their parents spending habits.
The economists expect them to be in control of $200 billion in spending. Their parents who have sometimes been called the “helicopter parents” have given Generation Z a great influence over their spending habits - to the tune of $600 billion.
Gen Zers are more conservative than their Millennial predecessors. They are just as entrepreneurial, but they feel less certain that they will be able to start their own business. They spend less than Millennials and identify themselves more as savers. As a risk adverse generation, they are worried about building debt, particularly college debt like the millennials.
Since gen Zers trust technology, they are more likely to use mobile banks and hardly ever step into a brick building. A recent study by TD Bank found that 53 percent of gen Zers said they’d purchased something via mobile payment in the last six months, compared to 37 percent of Millennials and 27 percent of Generation X. (http://www.gfk. com/en-us/insights/ press-release/in-us-genz-leads-in-use-trustof-mobile-paymentsystems-gfk-study/)
On demand; practical; individualistic; and looking for value.
Gen Zers are much less likely to splurge on items than the Millennial spenders. Going into a store isn’t even a necessary part of the shopping experience. They are only likely to go into a store when they need assistance or can’t find what they are looking for online. In one recent study, 63 percent of Gen Zers said they shop online because it saves them time, while 53 percent said the selection is better online than in-store. (http://www. businessinsider.com/ millennials-vs-gen-z- 2016-8/#teens-shop- online-for-efficiency- purposes-)
Not only are the Zers looking for value and worth, they are looking for individuality and a personal sense of style. Following artists online with one-of-a kind items has replaced the Millennials penchant for luxury brands and classic designs which impress others.
Cautious; less risk-taking, concerned with safety; more private.
Millennials have often been described unfairly as “entitled, spoiled and narcissistic.” They were raised, however, by a generation of baby boomers who, some think, are the most iconoclastic, self-interested generation of them all. By contrast, the parents of Generation Z were mostly raised by Gen Xers – sometimes called “latchkey-kids” – listening to Nirvana in a depressing post-Vietnam and post-Watergate era. The Generation X parents focused on creating a safer environment to raise their children. Cooking baby foods from scratch and worrying about the PBA content of the containers were parenting behaviors which replaced the more carefree style of their boomer parents. Gen Xers wanted to protect their children from the impact of the world now fraught with acts of terrorism encroaching on them. The horrendous impact of 9/11 and the economic depression in the middle of the first decade had the impact of creating a generation who are less optimistic and much more pragmatic. As a result, the children of generation X are more conservative, less risk-taking, more private, more cautious and sensible.
Accepting; gender neutral
Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to say they know someone who prefers that others use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to them: 35% say this is the case, compared with a quarter of Millennials. The percentage of people who know someone using a gender-neutral pronoun decreases in the earlier generations: 16% of Gen Xers, 12% of Boomers and just 7% of Silents say this.
The youngest generation is also the most likely to say forms or online profiles that ask about a person’s gender should include options other than “man” or “woman.” Roughly six-in-ten Gen Zers (59%) hold this view, compared with half of Millennials and four-in-ten or fewer Gen Xers, Boomers and Silents.
These findings (Pew Research Report) seem to speak more to exposure than to viewpoint, as roughly equal shares of Gen Zers and Millennials say society should be more accepting of people who don’t identify as either a man or a woman.
BORN WITH A SMARTPHONE
Tech-savvy; private; quick connectivity then move on
Gen Z is the first generation to be raised entirely during the era of the smartphone. It is not uncommon to see a toddler more adept at swiping on an iPad than talking. Most Zers have access to at least five different screens in the home, which is why they have also come to be known as the “i-Gen”. They do nearly all of their research online and take class notes on their personal devices.
Unlike the millennials and their Gen X parents, they are much more private about what they share digitally. You won’t see a picture of them drunk, holding a red solo cup and kissing some random person at a party. The Zers only use the social media which erases the image as soon as someone has seen it. They reserve “face-book” for the images they want their future employers to look at!
Streaming services have replaced the TV. One in five Gen Zers don’t watch TV at all. They spend twice as much time—a full 26 hours per week on their phones (15.4 hours) and laptops (10.6 hours). This makes them even greater mobile viewers than Millennials, who still spend
16 hours per week in front of a desktop computer (visioncritical.com/ generation-z- infographics/). Generation Z have been ridiculed for having an attention span shorter than a goldfish! However, during that 8 seconds they have become highly discerning and have evolved an information filter which allows them to hone in on the most relevant information. You better be able to get your message across concisely and in 8 seconds! (https://www. fast coexist. com/3045317/what-is- generation-z-and-what- does-it-want)
Screens and the internet have opened up a world of information and learning. The New York ad firm Sparks & Honey discovered that 33 percent of all Gen Zers watch lessons online, for everything from craft and hobby projects to algebra and geography. Educational apps make up nearly 10 percent of all downloads on iTunes’ app store, its third largest category, and 80 percent of those are geared toward kids.
Generation Z is the first cohort that, engaging and interacting with screens, doesn’t think of a living room TV as the go-to place for news and entertainment. Older generations had must- see TV; Generation Z has must-see viral videos. (the-everything-guide-to-gen-z – Vision Critical)
Health conscious foodies with sophisticated taste buds. ‘Natural,’ ‘sustainable’ and ‘organic’
One big trend is a noticeable shift of Gen Z moving away from the major restaurant chains. McDonald’s, once the American teenager’s hangout of choice, doesn’t even appear on Generation Z’s list of top five favorite restaurants. In fact, no burger chain does. (https://www.npd. com/wps/portal/npd/ us/news/press-releases/ fresh-food-consumption- will-continue-to-grow- over-next-five-years-and- youngest-generations- will-be-driving-trend/ https://www.gfs. com/en/food-service- distribution/trending- now/crave/gen-z)
They are not obsessive food label readers like previous generations and care less about where the products are from and how much they cost. However, they are health conscious, have a preference for newness and a desire for positive global impact.
Starbucks is at the top of their list of hangouts, followed by Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread and Olive Garden. The trend is for the Gen Zers to frequent places where socializing is as important as the food.
The Gen Z foodies are also expected to increase their interest in cooking over the next five years and to overtake the Millennials and Gen X in their enjoyment of preparing and cooking foods.
Healthier; less trusting of providers; comfortable with technological devices
Generation Z is not unlike their elders when it comes to health consciousness but are less trusting of the big pharma companies and large-scale medical providers. They are more likely to research the cost of providers and to be more discerning of value since much of the data is now publicly available. Interestingly though, they are more likely to want and take the advice of family and friends when it comes to health matters.
Since they trust technology, they are more apt to try medical devices using it. We can imagine that they will be willing to wear devices which reminds them to breath or meditate and to avail themselves to technology capable of genetic mapping.
Since most of this generation is still on their parents’ insurance and since they are one of the healthiest generations coming through, it is difficult to predict their future in the health field. This is particularly true at a time when health care is being rapidly transformed by new treatment methods and hospital technologies.
Career focused; financially motivated; global interests; human rights advocates
Since the oldest of Generation Z are just approaching their Senior year of college, there is not yet much information gathered on their work habits. Unfortunately, the Millennials were given such an unflattering description of their behavior in the work force – brash, entitled, lazy, self-focused. This probably has as much to do with their age at the time of being studied and less a generational trait. However, interviews with the future labor force in the Gen Z teen years is helping us to put some ideas together.
They say they are career- focused: ready to work hard, to think for themselves and pursue new opportunities. They seem to be focusing on financial success. Whereas Millennials put a great deal of emphasis on having a clear career path and vacation days, a large majority of Generation Zers, 65 percent in all, say that salary is most important to them. While most current employees feel content if they’re earning $70,000 per year, many Gen Zers say they’ll only feel truly successful with a salary of $200,000 or more.. (http://fortune. com/2015/09/09/gen- z-is-idealistic-but-also- wants-to-earn-a-ton-of- money-too/)
Gen Z is also very vocal about making an impact on the world. Generation Z is less passionate than Millennials about environmental issues—but more likely to champion issues dealing with human equality which dominate the social agenda, from LGBTQ rights to immigration to race relations between police and America’s black communities
Diverse; sober; pragmatic.
Ethnic diversity is a defining characteristic of this generation. Generation Z are likely the last in America with a Caucasian majority. Between 2000 and 2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population, according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans self-identifying as mixed white-and-black biracial rose 134 percent. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87 percent.
As the most ethnically diverse generation in history, Generation Z will want to travel. Among 14 to 18-year old’s, 42 percent say they need to travel in order to feel that life is complete. And for 77 percent of those Gen Z teens, traveling alone without their parents is a major marker of adulthood. (http://www. traveltripper.com/blog/ traveler-3-0-how-will- generation-z-navigate- the-globe/)
As a generation, the Zers are on the whole more confident about themselves than the millennials. However, they are less optimistic about the future and experience less trust and confidence in the world at large. They are more altruistic and outgoing. Some 60 percent of Generation Z say they want to change the world for the better, a major step up from the 39 percent of Millennials who say the same (http://time.com/6693/coming-soon-to-your- office-gen-z/). Twenty-six percent of them are already volunteering and more than three-quarters say they will or want to volunteer in the future (http:// millennialbranding. com/2014/high-school- careers-study/)
Lucie Greene, the worldwide director of the Innovation Group at marketing firm J. Walter, stated: "Millennials, after all, were raised during the boom times and relative peace of the 1990s, only to see their sunny world dashed by the Sept. 11 attacks and two economic crashes, in 2000 and 2008. Theirs is a story of innocence lost. Generation Z, by contrast, has had its eyes open from the beginning, coming along in the aftermath of those cataclysms in the era of the war on terror and the Great Recession."
A Sparks & Honey trend report called “Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials” asserted that the cohort places heavy emphasis on being “mature and in control.” According to a survey of risky behavior by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of high school students who had had at least one drink of alcohol in their lives declined to about 66 percent in 2013, from about 82 percent in 1991. The number who reported never or rarely wearing a seatbelt in a car driven by someone else declined to about 8 percent, compared with about 26 percent in 1991.
Generation Z may be more conservative when it comes to taking risks, but they are much more liberal on issues of race and gender. For Gen Z, racial, sexual and gender equality isn’t an idea but a reality. As kids of the Obama presidency and the Clinton candidacy, they’ve never lived through a time when people of either gender or any racial background couldn’t become President. For today’s 14-year-olds, the nation’s first African American president is less a historic breakthrough than a fact of life.
They support same-sex marriage—in fact, they don’t see why it would be controversial. Same-sex marriage, for example, has gone from a controversial political issue to a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court.