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What is Generation Z? - Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Generation Z, the latest cohort in the United States, is an ill-defined group that we don't yet know much about and who haven't come of age. This lesson goes over what we know about this latest generation and the environment they are growing up in.

What's in a Name?

Have you ever heard of Generation Z? You may be a member of it! If not, you certainly know someone who falls into the group of people born after 1995-2005, depending on which sources you refer to. While the name is probably a placeholder for the eventual title this group will hold, it's time we got on board with it, at least temporarily. The naming of a generation is a slow process with ambiguous names for generations until well after the fact. For example, Generation X was originally termed 'Baby Busters' because of the sharp drop off in birth rates between that generation and the previous one, the 'Baby Boomers.'

There are several potential names floating around for Generation Z right now, such as the Plurals, iGen, Generation Wii, and Homeland Generation. Only in time will we know what the label for this generation will end up being, and there is a great chance that it will contain a defining feature we have not yet considered or observed.

Birthdates of Generation Z

There is not yet consensus from social scientists about the exact birthdates that would place people as members of Generation Z. Some sources have it starting as early as 1995, while others start it as late as 2005. Social scientists tend to come to a slow consensus regarding what does or does not define a generation, especially since no one knows beforehand what or when the defining experiences for a generation will be. The children born in 1920 didn't know they were going to fight and succeed in World War II, nor did they know the feats that would be carried out in their lifetimes. They are known as the Greatest Generation only due to this hindsight knowledge.

The generation before Generation Z, most commonly known as the Millennials, is commonly accepted to start somewhere in the early 80s. Since most cohorts have typically been defined in 18- to 24-year groups, this means the start of Generation Z is somewhere around the year 2000, give or take a few years.

Characteristics of Generation Z

Taking away all the ambiguity we can, what do we know about this generation specifically?

Diversity

Ethnically and racially, Generation Z will be the most diverse in the history of the United States. This is largely because their Generation X parents were part the largest immigrant influx in more than a century.

Parenting

The parents of Generation Z are older on average than any previous generation and are known to be very protective helicopter parents. An article from Cornerstone Blog reports that 1 in 7 stay at home parents is a father for a Generation Z child. There are also more homosexual and lesbian parents and more single parents than ere before. As a group, these parents are more focused on helping their children form social and familial bonds than any previous generation. These parents have insisted on social and emotional learning in schools.

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