February 17, 2024

๐Ÿ‘‹ Happy Saturday! We're bringing you a special AM Deep Dive about the trends shaping Generation Z โ€” and how they're changing the world.

  • Erica Pandey is your weekend AM maestro. This AM takeover is possible thanks to Dave Lawler, Sam Baker, Noah Bressner and experts across the Axios newsroom.

Smart Brevityโ„ข count: 1,389 words ... 5 mins.

1 big thing: Inside Gen Z's mind

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Gen Z is America's most diverse generation yet โ€” but is united by deep anxiety about the world.

  • Why it matters: A collision of political, economic and social trends has minted a generation struggling to cope with the present โ€” and feeling even worse about the future, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

๐Ÿ“‰ By the numbers: Gen Z (defined as people roughly ages 12 to 27) reports the poorest mental health of any generation, according to a Gallup and Walton Family Foundation report.

  • Just 44% of Gen Zers say they feel prepared for the future.

๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ The big picture: They dodged familiar teen pitfalls โ€” with lower teen pregnancy rates and lower rates of alcohol use. Instead, they're grappling with alarming rates of loneliness, depression and suicidal thoughts.

๐Ÿ”Ž Zoom in: Partly by choice and partly out of necessity during the pandemic, Gen Z socializes online, rather than in person, far more than previous generations. That's not healthy, experts say.

  • Spending time with people releases certain chemicals in the brain and boosts our mood. "Those things don't happen in the same way when you're texting," says Bonnie Nagel, a behavioral neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University.
  • Alyssa Mancao, a therapist in L.A., says her Gen Z client base is constantly comparing physical appearances or career paths with peers and influencers online: "There are a lot of feelings of inadequacy."

๐ŸŒŽ The state of the world also fuels Gen Z pessimism:

  • An ongoing study at Montclair State University finds that Gen Zers perceive the world as more dangerous than their older counterparts.
  • They're more likely to feel anxiety about extreme weather. Active-shooter drills became the norm while they were in school.
  • They're entering the workforce loaded with student debt. The cost of housing and other basic needs continues to soar. And AI poses an existential threat to jobs and careers they've only just begun.

"Across the board, my Gen Z clients are overwhelmed with the uncertainty around unemployment and affordable living," says Erica Basso, a therapist with clients across California.

  • "Unfortunately,ย most have had to rely on their parents for much longer than previous generations โ€” and still feel the pressure to hit major milestones like having kids or owning a home by their age, which is simplyย not realistic for many of my client's situations."

๐Ÿ’ก Reality check: Despite their anxieties, Gen Zers are heavily involved in social and political activism, and they're less emotionally repressed than past generations.

  • "All of my Gen Z clients amaze me with their intelligence, their tolerance and their abilityย to stay true to their values," Basso says. "These characteristics, combined, can activate great change in the world."

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2. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ The old-soul generation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Meeting friends for dinner at 6 p.m., throwing on some jazz to relax and drifting off to sleep by 9 p.m. may sound like perfect weekend plans for grandma. But many in Gen Z are also embracing the early-bird lifestyle.

  • Why it matters: Today's youth is surprisingly well-rested, thanks to the big business of sleep and a culture that ditches late-night drinks in favor of shut-eye, Axios' Sareen Habeshian writes.

๐Ÿ‘€ Zoom in: Americans ages 15โ€“34 have incrementally logged more sleep per night over the last decade, data from the American Time Use Survey shows.

5 p.m. dinner reservations are in vogue. So are workout classes in the afternoon rather than early morning. Old-school hobbies like listening to jazz are making a comeback.

3. ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ Groundhog Day election

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The oldest members of Gen Z were first eligible to vote in 2016, and millions more are eligible for the first time this year, Erica writes.

  • In that time, they've only seen three presidential candidates โ€” Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Why it matters: Young voters are stuck in a political Groundhog Day. Many are disillusioned by the lack of choice or younger candidates who reflect their views.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: 58% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 โ€” Gen Z and younger millennials โ€” aren't sure if they'll vote in November, according to a new Axios-Generation Lab poll.

"I feel like there's not enough representation in both the Democratic and Republican parties," says Jadisha Proano, a 19-year-old student at Dickinson College who's not planning to vote.

  • "I'd like to see younger people who are more in touch with the issues affecting the population of people who will be out of college soon."

๐Ÿ’ฐ Zoom in: When presented with a long list of issues โ€” abortion, climate change, guns, student debt, immigration โ€” 39% of young voters cited the economy as their top priority.

4. ๐Ÿ‘€ Charted: Growing gender divide

Data: Gallup. Chart: Axios Visuals

Young women who increasingly identify as liberal are driving a stark political gender gap with their male counterparts, Axios' Noah Bressner writes.

  • The gender gap first passed 10 points in 2017, when former President Trump took office and the #MeToo movement took off.

๐Ÿ‘“ What to watch: Gender polarization could have far-reaching consequences as politics becomes a bigger part of American life.

  • Fewer young people are willing to be friends or date someone who doesn't share their politics.

Keep reading.

5. ๐Ÿ’ผ What Gen Z wants at work

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Gen Z largely entered the workforce when remote and hybrid work went mainstream, Axios' April Rubin writes.

  • Why it matters: Early career professionals are hungry for mentorship and real connections (even friends) on top of flexibility and work-life balance. With Gen Z expected to overtake boomers in the workplace this year, those preferences are reshaping the modern workplace.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: More than two-thirds of students said they were more likely to apply for a job with a flexible schedule, according to a Handshake report from September.

  • 75% want hybrid work, while just 11% want to be fully in-person. 14% want to be fully remote.
  • Gen Zers were actually the least likely of all generations in the workplace to apply for remote roles, according to a LinkedIn analysis last year.

Gen Z applicants are also drawn to benefits like tuition repayment, retirement programs, mental health days and gym memberships.

6. ๐Ÿฆพ A generation of AI natives

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

When it comes to generative AI at school and work, Gen Z says: Bring it on, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

Why it matters: Some workers are fearful or ambivalent about how ChatGPT, DALL-E and their ilk will affect their jobs. But many college students and newly minted grads think it can give them a career edge.

  • While most U.S. adults say AI's risks outweigh its benefits, 57% of Gen Z respondents and 62% of millennials said they were more excited about the upsides, according to a Mitre-Harris Poll.

โšก Case in point: College students are piling into generative AI courses.

7. ๐Ÿ“ฑHow Gen Z gets its news

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

For Gen Z, catching up on the news is often a side effect of time spent on Instagram and TikTok โ€” and media outlets are adapting, reports Kerry Flynn, co-author of Axios Pro: Media Deals.

Why it matters: "Gen Z is being fed the news whether they want it or not," Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, CEO of the college-aged media portfolio Her Campus Media, tells Axios.

  • Multiple polls have found TikTok to be the top source of news for Gen Z.

๐ŸฅŠ Reality check: As with platforms like Facebook that older generations embraced, the rise of TikTok as a news source has fueled concerns about misinformation.

8. ๐Ÿ”ญ What Gen Z is hopeful about

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Despite wariness about the world and the preparation they've received to face it, 76% of Gen Zers believe they "have a great future ahead of them," April writes from Gallup data.

  • Gen Z, which grew up with social media and global interconnectivity, is trying to shape the future through activism on climate, abortion, and racial and gender equality.

Unlike their individualism-minded elders, this generation approaches change-making collectively.

  • 82% of Gen Zers believe they'll achieve their goals, per the Gallup survey.

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