Generation Z

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Generation Z (also iGen, Post-Millennials, or Plurals) are the cohort of people born after the Millennials. The generation is generally defined with birth years ranging from the mid or late 1990s through the 2010s or from the early 2000s to around 2025.

A significant aspect of this generation is its widespread usage of the internet from a young age. Members of Generation Z are typically thought of as being comfortable with technology, and interacting on social media websites accounts for a significant portion of their socializing. Some commentators have suggested that growing up through the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession has given the cohort a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.


Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote several books on the subject of generations and are widely credited with coining the term Millennials.[1] Howe has said "No one knows who will name the next generation after the Millennials".[1] In 2005, their company sponsored an online contest in which respondents voted overwhelmingly for the name Homeland Generation. That was not long after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and one fallout of the disaster was that Americans may have felt more safe staying at home.[2] Howe has described himself as "not totally wed" to the name and cautioned that "names are being invented by people who have a great press release. Everyone is looking for a hook."[1] Howe defines the Homeland Generation as people born from approximately 2005 to 2025.[3][4]

iGeneration (or iGen) is a name that several individuals claim to have coined, though it "sounds like an adapter used to charge your phone on the bus".[5] Psychology professor and author Jean Twenge claims that the name iGen "just popped into her head" while she was driving near Silicon Valley, and that she had intended to use it as the title of her 2006 book Generation Me until it was overridden by her publisher. Demographer Cheryl Russell claims to have first used the term in 2009.[1]

In 2012, USA Today sponsored an online contest for readers to choose the name of the next generation after the Millennials. The name Generation Z was suggested, although journalist Bruce Horovitz thought that some might find the term "off-putting". Some other names that were proposed included: iGeneration, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives, and Plurals.[1][6] According to Horovitz, the generation begins roughly around 1995.[1] He also referenced the Strauss and Howe birth dates that begin in 2005.

In 2013, the Nickelodeon channel used the term post-millennials to describe its audience of "children born after 2005".[7]

Frank N. Magid Associates, another advertising and marketing agency, nicknamed this cohort "The Pluralist Generation" or 'Plurals'. These births are said to have started from 1997 into the present day.[8] Turner Broadcasting System also advocated calling the post-millennial generation 'Plurals' instead of Generation Z.[9]

Matt Carmichael, a past director of data strategy at Ad Age, said in 2012 "we think iGen is the name that best fits and will best lead to understanding of this generation".[1] In 2014, an NPR news intern noted that iGeneration "seems to be winning" as the name for the post-Millennials.[10] It has been described as "a wink and nod to Apple's iPod and iPhone",[1] while former Ad Age writer Matt Carmichael notes that the lowercase "i" in iGeneration "leaves room for interpretation" and "could be any number of things: It could be for interactive, it could be for international, it could be for something we haven't thought of yet." [10] In response to naming a generation after a branded product, Randy Apuzzo, technologist and CEO of, published an article titled "Always Connected: Generation Z, the Digitarians",[11] in which he calls the new generation 'Digitarians[11]' because they are the first generation that has been "always connected to the internet" and were raised with touch devices. Statistics Canada has noted that the cohort is sometimes referred to as "the Internet generation," as it is the first generation to have been born after the invention of the Internet.[12]

In Australia, a 2005 report from the McCrindle Research Center used 2001 as the starting point of this generation's birth years.[13] A later McCrindle report in 2009 gave a range of 1995–2009, starting with a recorded rise in birth rates, and fitting their newer definition of a generational span as 15 years.[14] Under this definition McCrindle uses birth rates to determine when a new generation emerges rather than or in addition to sociological changes and trends. Statistics Canada defines the generation as starting in 1993.[15] Speaking at a TEDx event in 2015, Mark McCrindle suggested that Generation Z ended in 2010, terming those born after as "Generation Alpha".[16]

Demographics in the United States[edit]

According to Forbes, in 2015 Generation Z made up 25% of the U.S. population, making them a larger cohort than the baby boomers or millennials.[17] Frank N. Magid Associates estimates that in the United States, 55% of Generation Z are Caucasian, 24% are Hispanic, 14% are African-American, 4% are Asian, and 4% are multiracial or other.[18]

Non-traditional households are one of the most prominent features associated with Generation Z’s familial culture. In the 2010s, fewer women are having children (around 80 percent of those of childbearing age, against 90 percent in the 1970s), and those who do have fewer children at a later age.[19] Marriage rates have fallen as well as divorce rates, which are still relatively high. According to the U.S. census of 2010, both women and men get married at a later age– women’s first marriage averaging to the age of 26 and men’s to the age of 29. This is due to the popular idea of becoming financially and emotionally independent before beginning a life with a significant other or children. Multiracial families have also become very prevalent.

In the U.S. census of 2001, 6.8% of people under the age of 18 claimed to be more than one race.[20] In addition to an increase in multiracial families, there are more same-sex marriages and families in communities across the country.[21]


A 2013 survey by Ameritrade found that 46% of Generation Z in the United States (considered here to be those between the ages of 14 and 23) were concerned about student debt, while 36% were worried about being able to afford a college education at all.[22] This generation is faced with a growing income gap and a shrinking middle-class, which all have led to increasing stress levels in families.[23]

A Frank N. Magid Associates whitepaper stated that the cohort exhibits positive feelings about the increasing ethnic diversity in the U.S.,[18] and they are more likely than older generations to have social circles that include people from different ethnic groups, races and religions.[24] According to Magid, Generation Z are "the least likely to believe that there is such a thing as the American Dream," while Boomers and their Millennial children are "more likely to believe it."[1][24][25]

The youngest members of Generation Z are the first to come of age after same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2015. Generation Z is the first to overwhelmingly approve of same-sex marriage in their adolescence.[26]

Generation Z is generally more risk-adverse in certain activities than the Millennials. In 2013, 66% of teenagers (older members of Generation Z) had tried alcohol, down from 82% in 1991. Also in 2013, 8% of Gen. Z teenagers never or rarely wear a seatbelt when riding in a car with someone else, as opposed to 26% in 1991.[27]

Unlike generations X and Y, the young adults of generation Z have less faith in the American Dream “after seeing their parents and older siblings struggle in the workforce.”[28] As a generation that was either born or raised in the height of the Great Recession, members of Generation Z have witnessed or experienced first-hand the stress and fear of unemployment; as a result, members of Generation Z seek contentment and passion in their careers rather than a lucrative salary. As Jeffrey Arnett writes, emerging adults “expect to find a job that will be an expression of their identity.”[29] They will more often than not try out a series of different jobs or internships in their endeavor to find something they care about, rather than settling for a stable career that is unfulfilling. Business Insider magazine expects the generation to be "more entrepreneurial and pragmatic about money" compared to Millennials.[30]

Both the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession have greatly influenced the attitudes of this generation in the United States. The oldest members of generation Z were 7 to 8 years-old when the 9/11 attacks occurred.[31] Turner suggests it is likely that both events have resulted in a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity among the people of Generation Z with the environment in which they were being raised. The economic recession of 2008 is particularly important to historical events that have shaped Generation Z, due to the ways in which their childhoods may have been affected by the recession's shadow; that is, the financial stresses felt by their parents.[32] Although the Millennials experienced these events during their coming of age, Generation Z lived through them as part of their childhood, affecting their realism and world-view.[27] Obama's rise to presidency has also played a fundamental role in providing an identity to Generation Z.[citation needed]

A 2014 study Generation Z Goes to College found that Generation Z students self-identify as being loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, responsible, and determined.[33] How they see their Generation Z peers is quite different than their own self-identity. They view their peers as competitive, spontaneous, adventuresome, and curious; all characteristics that they do not see readily in themselves.[33]

Technology and social media[edit]

Generation Z is the first to have technology so readily available at a very young age.[34] With the web revolution that occurred in throughout the 1990s, they have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of technology in their upbringing. As technology became more compact and affordable, the popularity of smartphones in the United States grew exponentially. With 77% of 12–17 year olds owning a cellphone in 2015,[35] technology has strongly influenced Generation Z in terms of communication and education. Forbes magazine suggested that by the time Generation Z entered the workplace, digital technology would be an aspect of almost all career paths.[22] Anthony Turner characterizes Generation Z as having a ‘digital bond to the internet’, and argues that it may help youth to escape from emotional and mental struggles they face offline.[32] According to US consultancy Sparks and Honey in 2014, 41% of Generation Z spend more than three hours per day using computers for purposes other than schoolwork, compared to 22% in 2004.[36]

Comprising the largest portion of the U.S. population, at nearly 26%, Generation Z edges out Millennials (24.5%), and is estimated to generate $44 billion in annual spending. About three-quarters of 13–17 years olds use their cellphones daily, more than they watch TV. Over half of surveyed mothers say the demo influences them in purchasing decisions for toys, apparel, dinner choices, entertainment, TV, mobile and computers. Among social media, only Instagram is in popularity in the demo.[37]

In 2015, an estimated 150,000 apps, 10% of the apps in Apple's App Store (iOS), were educational and aimed at children up to college level.[38] While researchers and parents agree the change in educational paradigm is significant, the results of the changes are mixed. On one hand, smartphones offer the potential for deeper involvement in learning[38] and more individualized instruction; thereby making this generation potentially better educated and more well-rounded. On the other hand, researchers and parents fear that the prevalence of smart phones will cause technology dependence[39] and a lack of self-regulation that will hinder child development.[39]

An online newspaper about texting, SMS and MMS writes that teens do not need cell phones, but rather they just get them.[40] As children become teenagers, receiving a phone becomes just another rite of passage that allows them to be further connected with their peers and it is now a social norm to have one at an early age. An article from the Pew Research Center stated that “nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type”.[41] These numbers are only on the rise and the fact that the majority of Gen Z’s own a cell phone has become one of this generations defining characteristics. As a result of this “24% of teens go online ‘almost constantly’”.[41]

Teens are much more likely to share different types of information, as of 2012, compared to in 2006.[42] However, they will take certain steps to protect certain information that they do not want being shared. They are more likely to "follow" others on social media than "share" and use different types of social media for different purposes.[33] Focus group testing found that while teens may be annoyed by many aspects of Facebook, they continue to use it because participation is important in terms of socializing with friends and peers. Twitter and Instagram are seen to be gaining popularity in member of Generation Z, with 24% (and growing) of teens with access to the Internet having Twitter accounts.[42] This is, in part, due to parents not typically using these social networking sites.[42] Snapchat is also seen to have gained attraction in Generation Z because videos, pictures, messages send much faster than regular messaging. Speed and reliability are important factors in how members of Generation Z choice of social networking platform. This need for quick communication is presented in popular Generation Z apps like Vine (service) and the prevalent use of emojis.[27]

In a study performed by psychologists it was found that young people use the internet as a way to gain access to information and to interact with others. Mobile technology, social media, and internet usage have become increasingly important to modern adolescents over the past decade. Very few, however, are changed from what they gain access to online.[43] Youths are using the internet as a tool to gain social skills, that they then apply to real life situations, and learn about things that interest them. Teens spend most of their time online in private communication with people they interact with outside the internet on a regular basis. While social media is used for keeping up with global news and connections, it is mainly used for developing and maintaining relationships with people with whom they are close in proximity. The use of social media has become integrated into the daily lives of most Gen Z’ers who have access to mobile technology. They use it on a daily basis to keep in contact with friends and family, particularly those who they see every day. As a result, the increased use of mobile technology has caused Gen Z’ers to spend more time on their smartphones, and social media and has caused online relationship development to become a new generational norm.[44] Gen Z’ers are generally against the idea of photoshopping and they are against changing themselves to be considered perfect. The parents of the Gen Z’ers fear the overuse of the internet by their children. Parents have a disliking for the access to inappropriate information and images as well as social networking sites where children can gain access to people from all over. Children reversely felt annoyed with their parents and complained about parents being overly controlling when it came to their internet usage.[43] Gen Z uses social media and other sites to strengthen bonds with friends and to develop new ones. They interact with people who they otherwise would not have met in the real world, becoming a tool for identity creation.[43]

Social media is known to be a vehicle to express how members of Generation Z go about their daily lives and also express their beliefs. On the one hand, this understanding of the use of social media makes even more prevalent the issues of racism in society.[45] On the other hand, when people attend events in support of certain social justice movements, members of Generation Z are much more likely to post on their social media pages about the event. In part, this is to further prove that they stand by their beliefs. Moreover, this also spreads awareness of the movement and leads to the growth of a movement.[46]


According to a Northeastern University Survey, 81% of Generation Z believes obtaining a college degree is necessary in achieving career goals.[47] As Generation Z enters high school, they start preparing for college. Generation Z works hard in high school to get good grades, in order to get into colleges and earn scholarships. Generation Z is not concerned about getting a job after college like the Millennials are because Generation Z will be entering the workforce over a decade after the Great Recession happened, so it is more likely that the job availability will be greater than it was for the Millennials.[48] Also, Generation Z has greater technological knowledge than any other generation has had because Generation Z has grown up with cell phones and computers starting at a young age so they have an advantage in working with technology in the workforce after college. Student debt is a big concern for Generation Z. According to NeaToday, a publication by the National Education Association, two thirds of Gen Zers entering college are concerned about affording college. One quarter hope that their parents will cover the majority of the cost, and a third of students rely on grants and scholarships to help pay for college. While the cost of attending college is incredibly high for most Gen Zers, according to NeaToday, 65% say the benefits of graduating college exceed the costs.[48]

Mark Bauerlein highlights the effect of heavy reliance on technology in the classroom and other learning environments. The tech generation has developed a dependency on “hopping from link to link”[49] to easily find answers when they come across information they do not understand. This hinders their ability to comprehend complex texts as these texts require the ability to concentrate and focus on single phrases, read between the lines, and understand subtle intentions of the text. The cohort of Generation Z prefer fast and efficient productivity and are masters of multitasking. The result of insufficient exposure to physical copies of complex texts produces unskilled readers as Mark Bauerlein points out, “readers can’t proceed to the next paragraph without grasping the previous one, they can’t glide over unfamiliar words and phrases, and they can’t forget what they read four pages earlier. They must double back, discern ambiguities, follow tricky transitions, and keep a dictionary close at hand.”[49]

Generation Z college students prefer intrapersonal and independent learning over group work, yet like to do their solo work alongside others in a social manner when studying.[33] They like their learning to be practical and hands-on and want their professors to help them engage with and apply the content rather than simply share what they could otherwise find on their own online.[33]

"Generation Z" is revolutionizing the educational system in many aspects. Thanks in part to a rise in the popularity of entrepreneurship, high schools and colleges across the globe are including entrepreneurship in their curriculums.[50]

Employment prospects[edit]

According to Hal Brotheim in Introducing Generation Z, they will be a better future employees.[51] With the skills needed to take advantage of advanced technologies, they will be significantly more helpful to the typical company in today's high tech world.[51] Brotheim argues that their valuable characteristics are their acceptance of new ideas and different conception of freedom from the previous generations.

Despite the technological proficiency they possess, members of Generation Z actually prefer person to person contact as opposed to online interaction. As a result of the social media and technology they are accustomed to, Generation Z is well prepared for a global business environment.[52] Another important note to point out is Generation Z no longer wants just a job: they seek more than that. They want a feeling of fulfillment and excitement in their job that helps move the world forward.[27] Generation Z is eager to be involved in their community and their futures. Before college, Generation Z is already out in their world searching how to take advantage of relevant professional opportunities that will give them experience for the future.[52]


Author Alexandra Levit has suggested that there may not be a need to name the next generation, as technology has rendered the traditional 15-20 year cohorts obsolete. Levit notes that she "can’t imagine my college student babysitter having the same experience as my four-year-old", despite both being in Generation Z.[53] Matt Carmichael, former director of data strategy at Advertising Age, noted in 2015 that many groups were "competing to come up with the clever name" for the generation following Generation Z.[53]

Mark McCrindle has suggested "Generation Alpha" and "Generation Glass" as names for a cohort of births beginning after the end of Generation Z in 2010.[54][55][54][56] McCrindle has predicted that they will be "the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever",[54] He has suggested that later generations might be named after the Greek alphabet, with those after Alpha being Generations "Beta", "Gamma" and "Delta".[54] Social commentator Neer Korn has suggested there could be a backlash against consumerism from Generation Alpha.[57]


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Further reading[edit]