Sean McDowell | November 29, 2016

9 Important Insights about Generation Z

9 Important Insights about Generation Z

Move over Millennials. A new generation is here. For the past decade, there has been considerable discussion about how to understand and reach Millennials. But now there is a new generation, roughly those born between 1995 and 2010, which are the newest focus.

While the name Generation Z seems to be the most widespread, they are also referred to as the “Selfie Generation,” “iGen,” “Post-Millennials,” the “App Generation,” “TransGeneration,” and more. But regardless of the title, here are nine insights about this generation from my personal experience and research:

1. Digital Natives: While Millennials grew up in a technologically savvy and connected world, younger members of Generation Z cannot remember a world without the Internet. They grew up swiping an iPad before they learned how to talk and are the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Teenage members of Gen Z are connected nearly every waking hour of the day.

2. Entrepreneurial: Gen Zers have been raised with businesses such as Uber and airbnb, seeing how easy and simple it is to use your own time and resources to make money. 72% of older members of Gen Z want to start their own business.[1]

3. Diverse: This is the last generation that will be majority white (52%). Between 2000-2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population.[2] The idea of a black president is not exceptional to them—its normal. Gen Zers have grown up experiencing diversity, and they feel overwhelmingly positive about it.

4. Less Religious Identification: In 1966, 6.6% of incoming freshman reported being unaffiliated with any religion. In 2015, nearly one-third (29.6%) of all incoming college students reported not identifying with any particular religion.[3] The question is whether young people today are truly moving away from religion or just defining themselves differently than previous generations. I tend towards the latter explanation, although there is probably some truth in the first.

5. Blurry: Formerly distinct lines are now considered “blurry.” Technology has blurred the lines between home and work, study and entertainment, and public and private. Gen Zers have a different experience of family—same-sex households, working moms, stay-at-home dads, three-parent families, and couples choosing not to have kids. The nuclear family will make up less than a third of all families by 2026.[4] And, of course, gender and romantic identities have become blurry as well. [5]

6. Overwhelmed: In her interviews with teens for her article in Time magazine, Susanna Schrobsdorff says that “there was a pervasive sense that being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism—you name it.”[6] 68% feel overwhelmed by everything they need to do each week.[7]

7. Lonely: 3 million adolescents 12-17 have had a “major depressive episode” in the past year. There has been in increase in anxiety and depression among high school students since 2012. And this upsurge cuts across virtually all demographics—suburban, urban, and rural. [8]

8. Progressive: Most Gen Zers plan to get married, have children, and buy a home—although probably later than previous generations. And they are less likely to drink, smoke, and take drugs. Yet they hold more progressive views on issues like the legality of marijuana and the morality of same-sex marriage. [9]

9. Individualistic: Anne Fisher captures the forces that have helped create an individualistic emphasis among this generation: “Gen Z is used to having everything personalized just for them, from playlists to newsfeeds to products features of all kinds. They’ve grown up expecting that.”[10]

There is a tendency to be either overly romantic or critical about new generations. The reality is that members of Generation Z face the same life challenges as previous generations, but in a super-connected and rapid-moving technological age. And let us not forget that they have the same deep needs for love, significance, meaning, and belonging as every previous generation.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog:

[1] “6 Trends Among Gen Z in 2016” (Nov 23, 2016).

[2] Alex Williams, “Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z” New York Times (Sep 18, 2015).

[3] Kevin Eagan, Ellen Bara Stolzenberg, Joseph J. Ramirez, Melissa C. Aragon, Maria Ramirez Suchard, Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, The American Freshman: Fifty-year Trends | 1966-2015, 7.

[4] Marika Dobbin, “Four things making Generation-Z miserable” (Dec 10, 2015).

[5] Noah Michelson, “What’s a Skoliosexual?” Huffington Post (10/19/2015).

[6] Susanna Schrobsdorff, “The Kids Are Not All Right,” Time (Nov 7, 2016): 47.

[7] Erin Anderssen, “Through the eyes of Generation Z” (June 28, 2016).

[8] Susanna Schrobsdorff, “The Kids Are Not All Right,” Time (Nov 7, 2016): 47.

[9] The American Freshman, 29.

[10] Anne Fisher, “Forget Millennials. Are You Ready to Hire Generation Z?” (August 14, 2016).

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: