The United States Census Bureau recently released a report revealing that for the first time, Caucasians make up less than half of all births in the United States. The unprecedented ethnic diversity of children born around the turn of the new millennium isn’t the only way their generation will create a future dramatically different even from the present that has shaped them. After years of hand-wringing, analysis, and discussion revolving around the Millennials, the conversation is beginning to turn to their successors, children born after 1996, according to some, or simply around the year 2000, according to others. Regardless, the time has come to meet the hazily-defined, little-understood, shakily-named Generation Z.
Unsurprisingly, much of that conversation has focused on the difference between generations that witnessed the rise of the Internet, social media, and mobile applications, and one that doesn’t remember a time without them. A recently released study by Wikia and Ipsos MediaCT found that Gen Z is “plugged in” more often, longer, and in more places than even their Millennial counterparts. There’s even been some speculation that all that connectivity is literally rewiring the brains of our youth, with some studies suggesting that modern children and teens handle distractions better than past generations. The relationship between modern youth and new media has been described with the telling phrase “digital natives,” suggesting, perhaps accurately, that the first native speakers of the language we’ve all had to learn are only now coming of age.
Technology isn’t the only defining aspect of the next generation’s upbringing. Another study, this time from the Cassandra Report, found that traumatic events such as 9/11, school shootings, and the Great Recession are already shaping Generation Z’s spending habits and entertainment preferences. Having seen first-hand and at an early age the consequences of the recession, the uner-17 set is one of the most fiscally conservative demographics in recent memory. They’re expected to be careful consumers, doing the proper research and testing before spending money. And the lasting affects of a post-9/11 world have surfaced in their entertainment preferences, which tend towards the post-apocalyptic, a trend already evident in young adult fiction (see “The Hunger Games,” and the recent zombie craze.)
Then there’s the aforementioned ethnic diversity. It turns out that Generation Z isn’t just the most diverse generation in history, it’s also, according to a report from the experts at Magid Generational Strategies, the generation most prepared to handle that diversity. Their surveys suggest that children born since 1996 are more likely to view increasing diversity as a positive development, and more likely to have friends of other ethnicities than their adult counterparts. Their relative diversity, and ability to embrace it, has lead Magid and others to dub them “The Pluralist Generation.”
We’re all about diversity here at MMXLII, but we find the moniker a tad unwieldy. Not that we’re in love with the frankly cliché Generation Z either. All sorts of companies and experts have suggested titles for this soon-to-be-powerful-and-influential group. Our vote is for the iGeneration (complete with the catchy nickname iGen), but we’re open to other possibilities – let us know if you have any ideas in the comments.
Photo from AGBeat.