What Gen Z Really Wants

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They seek work-life balance and mental health support. They dread getting stuck in a boring job. And they blame today’s policymakers for downplaying issues that affect them, like school shootings and racism. Meet Generation Z, as a new report describes.

Why is this important: Gen Zers — those born between 1997 and 2012 — will soon be the largest voting cohort in the United States, and they’re voting in record numbers.

  • Moreover, they will represent 27% of the workforce in three years, according to the World Economic Forum.

Driving the news: The report, from the Walton Family Foundation and Murmuration (an educational inequality nonprofit founded by Emma Bloomberg), profiles a generation that prioritizes family and well-being over earn money, aren’t afraid to change jobs, and see civic participation as vital to advancing their values.

  • They “have little expectation that government, business and other institutions will prioritize them or take their needs into consideration,” according to the report.
  • They are “less conservative than previous generations and take a more progressive stance” on issues such as social justice and climate change.
  • And they “see advocacy for the voiceless as central to their identity, more so than any other generation in America.”
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Like other young people before them, Gen Zers don’t know how their elders run their schools and workplaces. But unlike their predecessors, they mainly focus on flexibility, personalization and emotional support.

  • Gen Z “wants to feel connected to the issues that matter to them,” says Romy Drucker, education program director at the Walton Family Foundation. “They want a sense of purpose in their work.”
  • As for school, “they don’t feel like their education is preparing them for the kind of future they want to have,” she tells TSTIME.
  • To better serve them, educators “need to find more experiential and immersive ways to connect,” she said.

What they say : Gen Zers “talk openly about not wanting to follow in the path of their parents and grandparents – working to exhaustion, little time for family and individual pursuits, committing to staying true to a job or an industry, etc.”, according to the report.

  • “It gives them the motivation to question tired corporate policies and redefine work-life harmony.”

By the numbers: Gen Zs are different…

Professionally: They spend an average of just 2 years and 3 months at a given job, per CareerBuilder. Compare that to 2 years and 9 months for Millennials, 5 years and 2 months for Gen X, and 8 years and 3 months for Baby Boomers.

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Politically: Unlike previous generations, Gen Z “did not experience a moment when America stood together,” the report notes.

Demographically: They are “the most racially and ethnically diverse cohort” in US history, according to the Pew Research Center. 52% are non-Hispanic white, up from 61% of millennials in 2002 (when they were in the same age bracket), Pew says.

Generation Z is also “between of a mental health crisis,” the report concludes.

  • Compared to other generations, Gen Zers are about twice as likely (42% to 23%) to say they suffer from depression and feelings of hopelessness.

  • And they are three times more likely (18% to 5%) to say they have considered self-harm or suicide.
  • By the time they were ready for school, “red alert lockdown drills and school shootings were expected – and soon they would see too many of their community members losing battles with opioids and depression.”

Jennifer’s thought bubble: What a difference a generation makes. On the cusp of the baby boomer-to-Generation X transition, kids were so career-focused that “40% of Yale graduates in 1986 applied for [work at] a single company – investment bank First Boston”, according to Geoffrey T. Holtz’s 1995 book “Welcome to the Jungle”.

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The bottom line: Generation Z “will have an outsized influence on the future of the nation and society at large,” according to the report. Evidence includes “the pressure they exert on employers” and how they “take to the streets to protest gun violence or promote reproductive health”.

  • With the midterm elections on the horizon, “this is a critical time to better understand young people,” says Drucker.
  • “The big message from young people is, ‘please listen,'” she said. “We have great ideas about what excites us, what liberates our love of learning, what excites us.”

Methodology: The Walton Family Foundation/Murmuration report is based on a nationwide survey of 3,805 Americans between the ages of 15 and 25 — and 1,108 people over the age of 25 for comparison — as well as town hall-style focus groups in various cities.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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