Generation Z – Beyond Binary: new insights into the next generation

This report, the latest in our Ipsos MORI Thinks series, pulls together existing and new analysis, as well as brand new research on this latest generation, to provide a better understanding of the initial signals on how they will be different to, or the same as, previous generations.

Generation Z – Beyond Binary: new insights into the next generation

Millennials are old news, with a new generation of young (those born from 1996 onwards) hitting adulthood.  A major new report from Ipsos MORI explores what’s really different about this generation.

Contrary to many clichés about today’s young, our new survey data and analysis reveals a better behaved, more trusting, socially minded, and less materialistic generation.

  • Trust is trendy again: New analysis of Ipsos MORI’s Veracity Index shows a stunning cohort shift in trust levels between UK Generation Z and Millennials. Generation Z are nearly twice as trusting of other people than Millennials were at the same age (61% in 2017 compared to 36% in 2002).  In fact, this brings Gen Z back into line with other generations – it was Millennials who had trust issues
  • Kids are here to volunteer: New data from Ipsos MORI’s Young People Omnibus among school children in Britain, shows there has been a cohort shift towards higher social activism. Nearly half of 14-16 year olds (46%) say they have given their time to help out people in the community in the past two years, compared with just 30% in 2005. And three in ten (29%) are regularly active in their neighbourhood, community or an ethnic organisation compared with just one in ten (10%) in 2005.  
  • A turning point on ethical buying? A quarter of UK school children (26%) say they have avoided certain products because of the conditions under which they were produced– compared to 19% of Millennials at the same age
  • Things don’t define them as much: Despite pressure of a harder economic context, there has been a cohort shift away from materialistic values. For example, less than a third (30%) of schoolchildren feel the things they own say a lot about how well they are doing in life, compared with 42% in 2011.
  • But they’re NOT a political youthquake: British school kids no more likely to vote when they’re old enough than in 2005 (71% among Gen Z teens compared to 72% of Millennial teens). And MPs are (even) less in touch with the youth than before – only 15% of Gen Z teens would contact an MP about an issue they’re concerned with compared to a quarter (25%) of Millennial teens in 2005.
  • Better behaved, but maybe not for long. Although there have been big decreases in smoking, drinking, some drug taking and crime among young people, this doesn’t seem to be due to being more worried about the risks.  Comparing new data from our Young People Omnibus to data from 2004 shows they’re actually are far less worried about all sorts of behaviour. For example, seven in ten (72%) adolescents think smoking cannabis is very risky, compared to 84% of Millennial teenagers in 2004. They’re also less likely to think unprotected sex is risky (57% compared to 63%), less worried about walking alone at night in strange areas (57% think it is very risky compared to 67%) and less likely to see smoking as high-risk (70% compared to 76% of Millennials in 2004).
  • But is British binge-drinking coming to an end?  There has been a major shift in Gen Z’s views of binge drinking as high risk – seven in 10 (70%) think this is very risky compared to just 56% of Millennials at an equivalent point in 2004.

The report also brings together existing analysis in one place to provide a full picture of their lives, which points to how much more fluid many of their views are:

  • Their norms of sexuality and gender are changing: they are much less likely to identify as solely heterosexual and have much greater contact with people who don’t identify as just one gender
  • This affects what they want to buy: Gen Z are significantly less likely to be interested in products that are targeted at just one gender than even Millennials are – business needs to keep up with this more fluid view, not putting people in boxes.
  • They’re closer to mum and dad: Nearly two thirds of UK secondary school age kids (66%) talk to their mum at least once a week about important compared to just half of Millennials 51% when they were in school in 2001.  
  • They’re worried about the future: No one is very optimistic about the lives of Gen Z being an improvement on Millennials, just a quarter (25%) of Gen Z think their lives will be better
  • Most of them don’t have Saturday jobs: the proportion of 16-17 year olds with a Saturday job has halved since 1997
  • Childhood obesity is not getting much worse, but it’s not getting better. Rates in the UK at least have stabilised, but that still means that over a third of teenagers are overweight of obese.
  • Anti-sugar campaigns are working in Europe. There has been an 11% drop in daily consumption of soft-drinks in adolescents between 2002 and 2015 (from 28% to 18%) across 32 European countries.
  • But attempts to get children active are not - Gen Z teenagers are half as likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity as Millennials were in 2008.
  • Digital over-exposure? In the UK, 16-24 year old are exposed to over 13 hours a day of media content and a third of that time is because they are communicating online (32%).
  • Touched by the dark side of tech: There’s a clear negative correlation between social media use and mental health – particularly anxiety and depression.  It’s not clear yet whether technology use is causing this pattern, but the evidence is growing – we need to act to limit the potential negative aspects of digital lives and encourage the positive
  • Not suckers for fake news: There’s been a huge drop in trust in online news sites since 2010. Only half of kids aged 12-15 believe most or all of what they see on news websites and apps compared to 87% of children the same age in 2010. 

Bobby Duffy, Chairman of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and author of the report, said:

Gen Z are the new focus of attention, and often wild speculation. Most of them are still very young, with the oldest only just reaching their early 20s, but they are already the subject of spurious claims and myths about who they are and what they’re going to be.
They face some really tough conditions, particularly in Western countries like Britain – a tough economy, rapidly changing labour market, all-encompassing technology that brings new threats as well as opportunities, polarised politics and long-term trends like increasing obesity. 
But so many positive aspects shine through from our study – their interest in social action and ethical consumption, their trust in others, their dropping of some past bad habits, their openness to difference on sexuality, gender and immigration.
Putting a whole generation into a box is never smart, but it’s particularly unhelpful with this varied and fluid generation.  

 

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