Members of Generation Z pose for a homecoming photo.

Members of Generation Z pose for a homecoming photo.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about millennials overtaking baby boomers to become the largest living generation. Millennials — people born between 1981 to 1997 — are the best educated and most diverse generation to date. They might also be a bridge to the future.

“The millennials are a transition between a white America into one that’s a much more globalized, diverse America and so I think that’s going to be a signature part of the generation coming forward,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution author of Diversity Explosion.

The iGeneration, also known as Generation Z, are people who were born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s , the eldest of whom are about 20 years old. It’s the first American generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand.

Graphic from “Meet Generation Z” Northeastern University

Graphic from “Meet Generation Z” Northeastern University

Not surprisingly, advertisers are rushing to figure this new generation out. A 2014 report found these young people want “information on demand” and tend to trust the opinions of friends or strangers, who share their views on social media platforms, over authority figures and organizations. The iGens also turn to social media to learn about a product before buying it.

A study from Northeastern University found that members of Generation Z have a strong entrepreneurial streak and are anxious to map out their own futures. Forty-two percent envision working for themselves rather than for someone else. This group is also progressive on social issues, voicing strong support for universal healthcare, relaxed immigration laws and equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

And, despite growing up with social media, Generation Z still places a high value on interpersonal interaction, with 66 percent disagreeing with the notion that they’d rather interact with their friends online than in person.

But the place where Generation Z, also known as the Globals, might leave their most lasting mark, is in how they deal with people of different backgrounds and races, and even in how they define themselves.

“The racial categories we’ve been using all along may change as there’s more interracial marriage [and] interracial dating,” said Frey. “So that’ll be a very interesting way the country develops over time. We really don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of change.”


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