Monday, February 13, 2012

Who Is Generation Z?

Quick Summary:
  • Generation Z follows Generation Y.
  • Generation Z is born from 1996 to 2011
  • Generation Z is smaller than Generation Y.
  • Generation Z only knows of a world with the internet.
  • Generation Z (in the United States) faces a dismal economic picture.

Many of the regular readers know all about Generation Y, but may wonder about the following generation: Generation Z. The next fifteen year generation completed its final year of birth (2011), and will be coming of age over the next few decades. What we know about Generation Z at this time is that it's not as large as Generation Y, it only knows about a world with the internet, and it will face a dismal economic picture.

One potential inaccurate statistic that I'll state is that Generation Z is smaller than Generation Y. I state this without numbers because Generation Y is 80 to 86 million strong, whereas kids born from 1994 to 2004 (most of which are Generation Z, though it goes seven years after that date) are only 23 million strong. Numerically speaking, even if the remaining 7 years of Generation Z doubled the first 8 years, it still wouldn't be larger than Generation Y (23 + 46 = 69). On top of this, with the economy current performing poorly, many people (especially Echo Boomers!) have delayed family formation: in fact, that's one of the things I write about on this blog. This has sucked some size from Generation Z.

The Millennial generation may not realize this, but many of its members can still recall a world without the internet. They can recall doing research by going to the library and searching manually through a database (gosh, I can remember looking through the actual cards!). The world has completely changed now: with the rise of the internet, Wikipedia, Google and some specialized blogs have become the major source of information, along with electronic news. Generation Z only knows the internet, as the youngest Generation Zer (born in 1996) would have been born in a world already with the internet. And about the time these early Generation Zers became fully conscious, the internet was becoming widespread. The effects of this fact remain to be seen: I cannot theorize at this time what this will mean for Generation Z.

The United States as an economic superpower has declined rapidly over the last decade and this will have a major influence on both Generation Y and Z. Some young members of Generation Y might be able to recall a low national debt and a major surplus (2000), while this is completely foreign to Generation Z as they come of age. This change won't just affect the political spectrum and how Generation Z votes, but it will affect how Generation Z conducts business. The attitudes toward frugality may amp up in this generation if financial factors do not significantly change for the United States soon.