What Is Generation Z: Everything You Need to Know About Gen Z
Are you curious about Generation Z? Ever found yourself scrolling through social media or interacting with the younger generation and wondered, “What is Generation Z all about?”
Learning who these people are is important because they have some qualities that make them different from the other generations. Besides, this generation is a great influencer in technology, culture, and consumer behavior.
If you are a marketer looking to niche down with this demographic and looking for some in-your-face coverage on the subject matter at hand, then brace yourself! This blog post gives you an excellent primer on who members of Generation Z really are – and why they matter.
- Generation Z includes those people born in the late 1990s to early 2010s.
- Gen Z values inclusivity, diversity, social justice, and environmental sustainability.
- Generation Z is called digital natives; they’re highly tech-focused and use social media for daily routines.
- Gen Z characteristics include an entrepreneurial mindset and a willingness to confront societal issues.
- Gen Z demonstrates strong digital proficiency, multitasking abilities, adaptability, and access to vast amounts of information—a clear edge over previous generations.
What Is a Generation?
A generation is a term that refers to people who are born around the same time and have similar experiences, values, and cultural influences. It is a social concept that helps us understand how different groups of people in society influence each other and are influenced by their surroundings.
The idea of generations or the sociology of generations was developed in an essay called “The Problem of Generations,” published by Karl Mannheim in 1928. This text has been described as one of the most important and influential works on understanding generational dynamics from a sociological point of view.
Mannheim argues that individuals are heavily influenced by social changes happening during their youth. When enough people go through key formative events together, it creates what he calls cohorts (groups) with shared pasts – which then become resources for influencing subsequent change.
Critics argue that this theory primarily reflects Western thinking and lacks cross-cultural applicability. However, others claim it should be seen globally because increasingly interconnected societies mean everyone’s looking at everyone else all the time today!
Who Belongs to Generation Z (Gen Z): Date And Age Range?
According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Collins Dictionary, Gen Zers include people born from the late 1990s until about the mid-2010s. Oxford Dictionaries further defines them as the generation reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century, who are typically perceived to be familiar with digital media from a very young age.
Pew Research Center describes Gen Z as those born in or after 1997 – a definition influenced by significant societal events as well as technological developments that occurred around that time. However, Pew has not provided clear endpoint dates for this group.
Psychologist Jean Twenge identifies members of Gen Z as part of what she calls iGen and sets their birth years from roughly 1995 to 2012. Others use starting points like 1995 or even just before or after it.
In summary, different sources may slightly disagree on exact dates, but Generation Z generally refers to people born roughly between the mid-1990s and early-to-mid-2010s.
Gen Z Vs. Generation Alpha, Millennials, Gen X, And Baby Boomers
The generational landscape of the modern era is a fascinating study of how socio-economic, technological, and cultural changes shape the attitudes, behaviors, and values of different age groups.
From Baby Boomers to Generation Z, each generation has unique characteristics and viewpoints, often influenced by the historical and cultural tapestry they were born into.
Understanding these differences can help us appreciate diversity in perspectives and bridge communication gaps across ages.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
Boomers were born post WW2 – a time marked with economic prosperity and significant social change. They grew up during the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the Space Race – marking them as people of the same age with a mix of optimism and social activism.
- Strong work ethic: Characterized by a strong work ethic. Career-focused, loyal to employers, and with much self-definition through professional achievements.
- Traditional values: Tend to hold more traditional values than later generations – particularly around family structure, gender roles, respect for authority
- Digital adaptation: Were adults when digital technology became ubiquitous; sometimes had a less intuitive understanding of tech compared with younger generations
Generation X (Born 1965–1980)
Though Generation X was to become known as the “middle child” of the generations, they were coming of age at a time when change thundered through society. The latchkey kids, whose divorced mothers went off to work in record numbers, were a massive change alongside the shrinking cyber globe.
- Independence and skepticism: Gen X-ers are believed to be more independent than any other generation that has come before them or after because they were brought up during the period of two-career families, divorces, and a new brand of feminism.
- Work-life balance: Unlike the previous generation, Gen X-ers are keeping a work-life balance balancing outside interests — family, recreation, and caring for aging parents — with work.
- Technologically adept: This is the first generation raised on computers from elementary through high school.
Millennials Or Generation Y (Born 1981–1996)
The first generation to come of age in the new millennium, millennials are the young technology gurus who thrive on innovations, startups, and working out of coffee shops. They were the kids who were born roughly between 1980 and 2000.
- Tech-savvy: The millennial generation has high expectations for technology and has been exposed to it since they were little. They’re generally creative with a great eye for social trends.
- Connected: Born with a connection to global networking, millennials often lead their peers in adopting new communication technologies — usually social media-first apps like Snapchat or Instagram.
- Entrepreneurial: Often regarded as disruptors by older peers, this group is aided by having no internal silos or bureaucracy, so change comes naturally to them.
Generation Z (Born 1997–2012)
The first generation to be truly native to the digital age, Generation Z has grown up with internet access, smartphones, and social networks as an ordinary part of life.
- Digital natives: Having been exposed to technology from birth, Gen Z is highly comfortable with it and seamlessly integrates the online world into daily life compared to prior generations.
- Pragmatic and entrepreneurial: They grew up in a post-global recession-era when many millennials struggled financially. As a result, Gen Zs tend to be pragmatic, cautious about the future, and quite entrepreneurial.
- Socially Progressive: The most diverse generation yet and often thought of as being more progressive than their predecessors on issues like race, gender identity/expression, and climate change.
Generation Alpha (2013-now)
Generation Alpha represents an entirely new breed of digital natives whose immersion in technology promises to eclipse even that of their Generation Z predecessors.
Characterized by the technological revolution, global connectivity, and shifting social norms, this generation has come into being at a time when advances are occurring more rapidly than ever.
- Ultra digital natives: If Gen Z were dubbed “digital natives,” Alphas take this concept up another level. From infancy, they know what a smartphone is and what a tablet does and may be able to tell Alexa or Siri how to switch on Baby Shark.
- Integrated learning and play: Physical play with toys can now be blended with digital characters that come alive thanks to augmented reality technology – something Lego has done with its Hidden Side sets. As such, these young people could have unique cognitive skills as early users of these types of educational tools.
- Unprecedented technological fluency: Early interactions with advanced tech could result in fluency around virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and other emerging tech platforms that no previous age group has experienced.
What Are Gen Z's Values?
Generation Z is driven by distinct experiences and the world it was raised in, which has resulted in a unique set of values. Inclusion, diversity, social justice, and environmental sustainability are high on their list of priorities.
Accuracy is also important to them. They appreciate technology and self-expression, while wanting institutions and brands to be more open with them. Let’s look at these qualities one by one:
Diversity And Multiculturalism
Generation Z is often mentioned in connection with its diverse and multicultural orientation. For young people who belong to this age group, the world has always been marked by social unrest.
They have seen live protests and use Twitter or TikTok for their own campaigns. Nearly all Gen-Zers (97%) are on at least one platform. This is how they spread messages – and inform themselves.
The youth of today is also the most racially diverse generation ever, with more than half from a minority ethnic background. As a result, they expect diversity in brand communications and influencers associated with those brands.
The generation grew up exposed to different cultures via the constant news and information online. Consequently, they are open-minded, liberal equal treatment advocates.
Brands trying to engage with Gen Z’s values around inclusivity will face an authenticity challenge. More than any other age group, most said this factor was important when selecting brands.
There is evidence that failing to diversity could hit sales. For example, Adobe found that 34% of adults stop using brands that don’t support them.
As Gen Z becomes an increasingly powerful consumer force, retailers will need relationships with initiatives supporting social justice movements and a sufficient breadth of marketing campaigns representing multiple races if they will appeal effectively on a mass scale.
Evidenced by their remarkable social consciousness and activism, Generation Z deems sociopolitical awareness a core attribute. This generation not only cares deeply about human rights, racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and feminism, but is also actively engaged in advocating for change.
One example of this is the global youth-led climate strikes that members of Gen Z have participated in en masse. Inspired by activists like Greta Thunberg, they demand action on climate change and environmental sustainability.
Another way in which they do this is through using social media to amplify their voices. They use hashtags and viral challenges on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram to raise awareness about important causes or stories.
For example, #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter teach others or mobilize support.
Gen Z also puts its money where its mouth is when making ethical purchasing decisions. Brands that resonate with its values around inclusivity, sustainability, or ethical production shoot up in popularity.
Think Patagonia’s commitment to environmental sustainability or Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick’s fight against racial inequality.
Overall, what sets Gen Z apart from previous generations is that it expects brands to take a stand on societal issues because it actively champions them online and offline.
A Gallup and Walton Family Foundation-State of American Youth 2023 Survey has found that Generation Z highly values higher education. Some 83% of respondents regard it as “very important” or “fairly important” – significant given adult concerns about college affordability and lack of confidence in higher education institutions.
Even the youngest of Gen Z are keen on university. Of youth aged 12 to 15, 87% believe obtaining a degree is very or fairly important.
This emphasis holds across age groups in Gen Z: 80% of those aged between 16 and 18, 85% of those aged between 19 and 21, and 82% of those aged from 22 to around the mid-20s.
Why? There are several reasons why these young adults value obtaining a university degree – from personal growth to potential career progression or economic stability.
With the job market becoming more competitive, many see higher education as critical in providing them with skills to aid their future success in their chosen field.
Societal expectations may contribute to Gen Z’s strong focus on gaining a pass into university life. Parents, cultural influencers, and educators all play their part in reinforcing that getting a degree is often seen as “the next logical step.”
Despite ongoing concerns over whether universities offer good value for money, Generation Z remains strongly positive in perceiving the worthiness behind bagging a university qualification.
Generation Z has a distinctive perspective when it comes to economic security values. To many people in Generation Z, feeling wealthy is not only about having a lot of money, but also about living a fulfilling life and enjoying a better quality of life.
Unlike previous generations — for example, the baby boomers — who typically feel that financial security is key to feeling wealthy, members of Generation Z rate overall well-being and happiness more highly.
They believe wealth can be defined beyond just monetary value to include experiences, personal growth, and work-life balance.
For instance, a member of Gen Z might feel wealthy if they have the freedom to pursue their passions, travel the world, or positively impact society.
Job satisfaction rates are high with them — and they’re inclined to choose careers based on values alignment rather than just focusing on making big salaries.
The shift in economic security values reflects changing priorities and aspirations among Generation Z. While financial stability remains important at some level, there’s an increased emphasis on holistic well-being and fulfillment across various aspects of life.
Generation Z is redefining the concept of civic engagement. Focused on social and environmental problems, this generation wants to make an economic impact, from eco-friendly consumption to expressing a preference for brands aligned with their values.
Sustainability is one facet of Gen Z’s economic civic engagement. Brands like Patagonia that champion environmental causes appeal strongly to them. That taste for sustainability extends across all products.
Another channel through which the demographic engages in economic activism is social justice causes. The Black Lives Matter movement has been particularly influential among young people; they boycotted or supported businesses based on their engagement with the issue.
Crowdfunding platforms are another way younger people have been using money as a means of canvassing support for initiatives and projects they care about, including ethical business endeavors.
Gen Z’s approach to civic activism goes beyond traditional methods. It reflects its values around inclusivity, equity, and sustainability much more than previous generations did at that age.
Generation Z is widely regarded as the most economically conscious generation, particularly regarding sustainability and purchasing decisions driven by personal values.
The 2008 financial crash had a big influence on Millennials’ spending practices and led to a swing towards cheaper Chinese-made goods. Similarly, Covid-19 has had an even bigger impact on Gen Z’s approach to consumption.
As factories shut their doors and people adapted to remote working or learning, there was a growing realization across society that doing less, consuming less, and wasting less is necessary.
In this respect, Gen Z has adopted – and accelerated – the sustainability revolution, which was already underway. They are playing a strong part in creating a more environmentally aware future.
Recent consumer research shows that most Gen Z shoppers prefer sustainable brands and would pay up to 10% more for sustainable products than their generational counterparts.
Along with Millennials, this generation places significant importance on buying based on personal values (as well as social and environmental ones). Brands are starting to realize this: fashion retail is one sector where Gen Z’s sustainability demands are seen.
First insight, a leading merchandising platform, calls it “the next normal” in retailing. If you want these concerned consumers coming through your door – whether virtual or physical – your company needs an eco-friendly option.
But economic consciousness for Gen Z means more than just traditional money factors. It also encompasses social factors such as diversity, inclusion, and environmental factors.
And those preferences have power: industries will be forced into change if businesses want their practices to align with what this group genuinely likes.
Personalization And Authenticity
When interacting with brands, Generation Z has set a new standard. More so than any other generation before them, they want these interactions to be personalized and authentic.
They also know exactly what they’re looking for from a brand because, as a generation, they are more discerning. They value transparency and will look beyond the obvious marketing tactics to see if organizations share our values.
Take sustainable fashion brands as an example: environmentally friendly material sourcing and ethical practices are important for this consumer demographic. They care about fair trade, ensuring supply chains are transparent.
Brands including Patagonia and Everlane have been successful among Gen Z, thanks partly to their vocal commitment to social responsibility.
Interestingly, authenticity matters too when it comes to how brands communicate with this audience: young people can smell disingenuousness at ten paces and demand real connections.
Glossier is a case in point: the brand speaks successfully to its younger customer base by using user-generated content on social media channels such as Instagram and featuring real customers in advertising campaigns.
Personalization and authenticity aren’t just buzzwords where Gen Z is concerned – both are essential building blocks of trust and loyalty.
Brands that truly understand these aspects of engagement by connecting on an individual level or demonstrating offset ethics will find it easier to capture attention and keep it.
Astonishing levels of health consciousness are displayed by Generation Z, thanks to various factors that impact well-being. One standout aspect is their elevated awareness about mental health.
With 25% of Gen Z reporting an unprecedented behavioral health crisis due to global unrest, financial crises, climate change, and the upheaval caused by COVID-19, they are focusing on self-care and seeking strategies to boost their emotional resilience.
For example, many Gen Zers meditate, do yoga, or engage in mindfulness exercises designed to manage stress and promote emotional well-being.
They also ensure they get therapy or counseling services if they think they need them – rather than waiting until crisis point –and benefit from an array of digital platforms and apps offering support with mental wellness.
Regarding physical health, Gen Z focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and nutritious eating habits.
Alongside embracing fitness routines such as HIIT workouts or outdoor activities like hiking or cycling, this generation makes an effort to eat organically and choose locally sourced food options. Supporting sustainable agriculture practices is important to them.
Gen Z’s health-consciousness extends beyond themselves into concerns around environmental sustainability, too. They’re advocating for eco-friendly practices, including reducing single-use plastics –or shunning brands without environmentally responsible initiatives.
Gen Z's Habits
Generation Z has developed unique characteristics that differentiate them from the generations before them. This particular age group comprises digital natives who are constantly online.
They use social media as a primary mode of communication and information-gathering, prefer to shop online, place importance on sustainability and authenticity, expect a personalized experience in everything they do, and have a notoriously short attention span. Let’s dig deeper:
Consumption And Spending Habits
Generation Z stands out from previous generations in several ways regarding consumption and spending habits.
One striking trend is their focus on sustainable shopping – they actively seek eco-friendly products. They are willing to pay extra for brands that share their values, such as using recycled materials or promoting fair trade practices.
Social media plays a big role in shaping Gen Z’s shopping behavior. They turn to platforms like Instagram and TikTok for inspiration and research before buying, while engaging with their favorite brands.
Influencers can be an important way of reaching them – businesses must factor this into marketing strategies.
A third notable aspect of Generation Z’s spending habits is the widespread adoption of mobile payments. As apps have taken off, so has the use of payment mechanisms via platforms such as Apple Pay or Google Pay among Generation Z consumers.
To capture these preferences successfully, businesses need to prioritize sustainability and ensure they are making the most of social media channels and ensuring e-commerce is optimized for mobile transactions.
Entering the workforce with a new set of distinct workplace habits, Generation Z has grown up in an era of digital ubiquity and convenience, making them supremely tech-savvy. They are as comfortable multitasking across devices and platforms as we were at filling out paper forms.
One thing that stands out about Gen Zers’ work lives is their desire for instant feedback and recognition. Unlike previous generations who might be happy with an annual performance review, these workers value regular check-ins with supervisors and thrive on real-time feedback.
Another distinctive feature: Gen Z values work-life balance more than any other generation — or so they say — and is always looking for flexibility in where they work, how they schedule their time, and what sorts of personal commitments take priority over professional ones.
Their craving for growth opportunities is also off the charts. These employees aren’t interested in waiting years to be promoted or learn new skills. Get ready to move them into different roles quickly, or you could lose them before you know it.
If you want to see one of these workplace habits play out at your organization, look no further than how Gen Z uses tools such as Asana or Trello, which facilitate project management collaboration within teams like few others.
Or watch what happens when someone from this group wants face time with a supervisor stuck in another state. Instead of booking a flight or setting up a conference room (remember those?), they’ll likely request a conversation via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Generation Z, the digital natives of our time, enjoy a relationship style that speaks to their upbringing in an always-online world. They approach relationships with a mix of traditional and modern values, blending online and offline interaction.
One prime example is their massive usage of online dating apps and platforms. Gen Z uses these tools frequently to meet potential romantic partners—a way of dating around that’s more casual and efficient than ever before.
Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and OkCupid have become popular social clubs for young people looking for love.
But despite being fluent in the language of bits and bytes, Gen Z understands the value of face-to-face communication. They want deeper connections than those offered through swipes.
As such, they’re still going out on social outings or joining clubs or organizations aligned with their interests.
For all their “fluid”-sounding habits (and there are plenty), members of Generation Z may be more monogamous than millennials – they just don’t like labels.
Political Life Participation
Regarding political involvement, one characteristic distinguishing Gen Z from earlier generations is that they are “digital natives,” having grown up in an era when technology is omnipresent.
Social media platforms and other online tools enable them to spread awareness about issues they care about, organize campaigns “from scratch,” and strengthen their reach.
The March for Our Lives movement — putting gun control on the national agenda following the Parkland shooting in Florida — was organized largely through social media.
The same goes for Fridays for Future — Greta Thunberg’s effort to draw attention to climate change by skipping school every Friday and urging others worldwide to do so as well — which has achieved global impact.
But members of Gen Z aren’t just organizing events; they’re also attending town halls, protests, or rallies where policymakers can hear directly from constituents.
They’re filing lawsuits over matters like climate change or racial inequality.
And they’re creating a range of digital content: Snapchat filter-based ads, videos explaining complex policy topics found on YouTube or TikTok, and podcasts where young people discuss politics with peers.
Another common feature: Many left-leaning members say participating in virtual activism during COVID-19-related lockdowns helped spur them toward physical action.
What Advantages Does Gen Z Have?
Generation Z is the standout generation. Watch them show off their talents in today’s world:
- Digital natives: This generation grew up with technology and are digital pros – perfect for adapting quickly to new gadgets, apps, and platforms.
- Tech addicts: Born into the digital era, they are just as comfortable on Snapchat or WhatsApp as previous generations were with TV or radio.
- Multitasking marvels: Growing up watching YouTube while Whatsapping friends on their phone means Gen Z can seamlessly juggle various tasks at once.
- Inclusion experts: The most diverse generation yet accepts everyone – regardless of race, gender, or background – which makes for better ideas and teamwork.
- Business boomers: Being exposed to online businesses such as Depop when young fosters early entrepreneurial instincts that stay with them throughout life.
- Activists everywhere! Climate change? Mental health? Black Lives Matter? You name it; they care about it passionately – and shout on social media!
- Change champions: Growing up in such an ever-evolving world has made post-millennials more adaptable than any people who came before them.
Generation Z, a distinctive and powerful force, greatly influences today’s society. They are at ease with technology, have digital savoir-faire, and can multitask effectively. They have an in-depth knowledge of the ever-changing technological world that equips them to adapt well.
Their promotion of diversity makes them especially influential, as does their determination for social justice issues. With an entrepreneurial mindset, Gen Z stands out in today’s fast-moving world. They’re also highly adaptable.
As consumers now and future leaders later on, Gen Z is demanding and expecting brands to be authentic, personalized, and sustainable.
Understanding what makes Gen Z particularly strong enables us to fully harness its potential and work hand-in-hand on shaping a brighter future for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Gen Y And Gen X Older Generations Than Gen Z?
Yes, Gen Y (Millennials, since 1981-1996) and Gen X (formed 1965-1980) are older generations compared to Gen Z (since 1997-2012). Gen Y directly follows the birth of Gen Z, with Gen X preceding Millennials.
What Generation Is Z Now?
Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, is today’s teen generation and the young adult group up to age 22. They are the most recent generational group entering and beginning to make its mark within the workforce.
Is Gen Z More Socially Minded Than Previous Generations?
Gen Z has often been considered more socially inclined than the previous generations. They tend to be more progressive, celebrating diversity and inclusivity and being loud over social and environmental issues, all of which have generally been fueled by their tender age access to global information.
What Is the Difference Between Gen Y And Gen Z?
Gen Y (Millennials) came of age when the internet and mobile technology meteorically exploded to make the experience and social connectivity available. In contrast, Gen Z is digital natives who hold value for inclusivity and mental health, pragmatism shaped by growing up in a post-9/11 and recession-impacted world.