9 Important Insights about Generation Z

Move over Millennials. A new generation is here, Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2010. Following are nine insights about them from research by Sean McDowell.

“There is a tendency to be either overly romantic or critical about new generations,” notes Sean. “The reality is that members of Generation Z face the same life challenges as previous generations, but in a super-connected and rapid-moving technological age. They also have the same deep needs for love, significance, meaning, and belonging as every previous generation.”

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Nine insights about this generation:

1. Digital Natives: While Millennials grew up in a technologically savvy and connected world, Generation Z can’t remember a world without the Internet. They grew up swiping an iPad before they learned how to talk, and are the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Teenage members of Gen Z are connected nearly every waking hour of the day.

2. Entrepreneurial: Gen Zers have been raised with businesses such as Uber and airbnb, seeing how easy and simple it is to use your own time and resources to make money. Seventy-two percent of older members of Gen Z state they want to start their own business.[1]

3. Diverse: This is the last generation that will be majority white (52%). Between 2000-2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population.[2] The idea of a black president is not exceptional to them—its normal. Gen Zers have grown up experiencing diversity, and they feel overwhelmingly positive about it.

4. Less Religious Identification: In 1966, 6.6% of incoming freshman reported being unaffiliated with any religion. In 2015, nearly one-third (29.6%) of all incoming college students reported not identifying with any particular religion.[3] The question is whether young people today are truly moving away from religion or just defining themselves differently than previous generations. I tend towards the latter explanation, although there is probably some truth in the first.

5. Blurry: Formerly distinct lines are now considered “blurry.” Technology has blurred the lines between home and work, study and entertainment, and public and private. Gen Zers have a different experience of family—same-sex households, working moms, stay-at-home dads, three-parent families, and couples choosing not to have kids. The nuclear family will make up less than a third of all families by 2026.[4] And, of course, gender and romantic identities have become blurry as well.[5]

6. Overwhelmed: In her interviews with teens for her article in Time magazine, Susanna Schrobsdorff says that “there was a pervasive sense that being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism—you name it.”[6] Sixty-eight percent feel overwhelmed by everything they need to do each week.[7]

7. Lonely: 3 million adolescents 12-17 have had a “major depressive episode” in the past year. There has been in increase in anxiety and depression among high school students since 2012. And this upsurge cuts across virtually all demographics—suburban, urban, and rural.[8]

8. Progressive: Most Gen Zers plan to get married, have children, and buy a home—although probably later than previous generations. And they are less likely to drink, smoke, and take drugs. Yet they hold more progressive views on issues like the legality of marijuana and the morality of same-sex marriage.[9]

9. Individualistic: Anne Fisher captures the forces that have helped create an individualistic emphasis among this generation: “Gen Z is used to having everything personalized just for them, from playlists to newsfeeds to products features of all kinds. They’ve grown up expecting that.”[10]

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of 18+ books, and an internationally recognized speaker. This post first appeared on Sean’s website.

[1] “6 Trends Among Gen Z in 2016” (Nov 23, 2016)
[2] Alex Williams, “Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z” New York Times (Sep 18, 2015)
[3] Kevin Eagan, Ellen Bara Stolzenberg, Joseph J. Ramirez, Melissa C. Aragon, Maria Ramirez Suchard, Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, The American Freshman: Fifty-year Trends | 1966-2015, 7
[4] Marika Dobbin, “Four things making Generation-Z miserable” (Dec 10, 2015)
[5] Noah Michelson, “What’s a Skoliosexual?” Huffington Post (10/19/2015)
[6] Susanna Schrobsdorff, “The Kids Are Not All Right,” Time (Nov 7, 2016): 47
[7] Erin Anderssen, “Through the eyes of Generation Z” (June 28, 2016)
[8] Susanna Schrobsdorff, “The Kids Are Not All Right,” Time (Nov 7, 2016): 47
[9] The American Freshman, 29
[10] Anne Fisher, “Forget Millennials. Are You Ready to Hire Generation Z?” Fortune.com (August 14, 2016)


Solutions for the Challenges Facing Gen Z

Research reveals five challenges Generation Z are experiencing in greater numbers than previous generations:

At Resolution Movement, one of our Ministry initiatives, Josh McDowell and Ben Bennett highlight what God says in His Word, along with research in brain science, to help young people learn to heal, thrive, and live in wholeness.

Recommended Parenting Resources

“Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” ~ Josh McDowell

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