By Lianna Willoughby, Managing Director, Open Mind Strategy
Globally, Gen Z makes up more than one-third of the world’s population. Almost a quarter of the US population today is 18 or under, making Gen Z the largest generation in the US population. It is estimated that there are roughly 80 million Gen Zs in the US today, and more are born each day.
So, who are they? Are they a generation of amplified Millennials? Yes. Everything changes, but not always in an opposite direction, and Gen Z takes some well-known Millennial traits to the next level. For example, Millennials may be tech natives, but Gen Z has digital in their DNA. Some even say, Gen Z could swipe before they could walk.
When it comes to Millennials being known for pro-social concerns, Gen Z take activism to another level. The Internet has made this an incredibly collaborative generation that is showing the world just how powerful a well-aimed tweet or YouTube video can be. Online, they create communities surrounding interests and causes, not geography.
Until now, Millennials were the most diverse generation ever. While Gen Z is about half white, in the next 4 years, more than half of this generation is projected to be majority minority races/ethnicities. Gen Z will be the last generation in the US to be majority non-Hispanic White. The most diverse generation ever- and not just skin deep. Less than half identify as completely heterosexual and more than 1 in 3 Gen Zs consider themselves to be bisexual to some degree.
A sense of authentic uniqueness is very important to Gen Z. While connectivity to community is important to them, they’d definitely rather stand out than fit in; it has never been so true that the “label does not apply”. They are less crowd-oriented than previous generations of teens, less concerned with finding popular options than in finding those that can stoke personal passion.
The new tribe emerges—social circles are being formed around personal passions. Gen Zs surround themselves with a different group of friends to express each of their many facets. Where Millennials have a “music friend” and a “tech friend” Gen Zs have entire groups. Those different friend groups might even hate each other—what’s cool in one might not be cool in the other.
Millennials were friends with their parents, and Gen Zs see them as best friends. Gen Z parental relationships are marked by mutual respect. For Millennials, parents were buddies and cheerleaders, always encouraging them to follow their dreams. For Gen Z, parents are an integral part of the support system. Digital natives themselves, parents of Gen Z have adopted a “stealth fighter” parenting style, knowing when to strike and when to lay low. As a result, more Gen Zs see parents as collaborators and peers.
Having reviewed some key areas where Gen Zs are amped up version of Millennials, let’s delve into part 2—the Anti Millennial overview. Are Gen Zs also anti-millennial? Yes! While Gen Zs have taken some well known Millennial traits to the next level, Gen Zs tend to blame Millennials for many of the world’s issues and make an effort to adjust their own behavior accordingly. They look up to them, but they also look down to them and want to change the narrative.
The side hustle trend has continued from Millennials to Gen Zs, however the evolution is such that Gen Zs are less interested in passion for passion’s sake, and much more focused on making sure that passion can pay. Gen Zs are passion driven, but if that doesn’t lead to financial stability, they need to find something else that will.
Passion that pays, tends to lead right into early specialization for the Gen Zs. In everything from entrepreneurship to sports, kids and teens are finding where they excel and focusing their efforts in hopes of a payoff as soon as they can get it. The daily show recently featured a 13 year old “shoe don” with a warehouse worth $1 million in shoes.
Gen Zers are still teenagers, they want to have a good time, but they don’t want the fun they have to negatively impact their future. We see this with how they use social media. Gen Z takes a much more crafted and curated approach. While Millennials post every detail of their lives on social media, Gen Zs are more aware of who they’re sharing information with and how they think this effects their online identity.
With Gen Z we tend to see the return of cool (and uncool). While Millennials are all accepting and inclusive, Gen Z tends to be more snarky, exclusive and very “image” aware. The reemergence of cool is not without consequences- as Gen Z is the most anxious generation, fueled by social media and personal image.
Millennials believe they can do/be anything and the world will support their efforts, while Gen Z has realistic expectations and are skeptical that their favor. After witnessing the financial crisis and subsequent struggle of their Gen-X parents, Gen-Z has money woes on its mind. Almost half of them worry about student loan debts despite not even having graduated from high school.
All that said, they’re still young, fun and undeclared as a group. This generation is just beginning to “come of age” –as serious as they may seem, they’re still kids and haven’t quite figured themselves out yet.