Commentary

Common Threads Bind Gen Z And Boomers

It’s hard to imagine that a generation in its 60s and 70s would have anything in common with kids under the age of 22 but the evidence is everywhere and it shouldn’t be surprising. Gen Z, people born in 1995 and later, are protesters, social-justice marchers, and spendthrifts just like their hippie aunts, uncles, parents and even grandparents.

Demographers may debate the exact dates, but Baby Boomers were typically born between 1946 and 1964. Their parents grew up during the Depression and the nightly news brought into their living rooms images of a war fought in Southeast Asia.

Compare that with Generation Z. Some of the first Gen Zers were teens and adolescents during the Great Recession of 2008. They saw their parents or the parents of their friends struggle with foreclosures and joblessness. Meanwhile, the country was waging a War on Terror against a nationless enemy.

Our research into Generation Z noted early on the financial pragmatism shared between these two generations. As Boomers head toward retirement they become more cautious with their money, having likely taken their own hit during the 2008 recession. Likewise, Gen Z typically waits for a sale and is more likely to save for an expensive item than are Millennials or Generation X.

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According to our research, 63% of Asian Gen Z said they waited for a sale before shopping followed by 50% of Hispanics, 47% of Whites and 41% of African-Americans. Hispanics led in saving for an expensive item at 74%, followed by 69% of Whites and 67% for both Asians and African-Americans. Gen Z also spends a lot of time doing research online but wants to lay hands on an item in a brick-and-mortar store before making a purchase. This seems incongruous with this digitally native generation.

When it comes to activism, Baby Boomers wrote the book. Vietnam protests, civil rights marches, and Kent State students killed all contributed to Boomer action. Today, economic justice, LGBTQIA, women’s rights, police shooting of civilians, and school massacres fuel Gen Z’s activism.

Gen Z is aided by social media. Gen Zers see it as a tool to change the world and bring social justice. Just as the Baby Boomers had their sit-ins and protest signs, now at lighting speed Gen Z can mobilize a massive turnout of protestors and share information regarding a topic. While telephone pole fliers and handbills shaped Baby Boomers views, so, too, does news on social media shape Gen Z’s reality of the world, and it’s a much smaller world to them.

As Gen Z ages, it will be interesting to see what other traits it may share with Boomers, the first watershed generation in comparison with the first most multicultural generation in the United States.

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