Millennials might make up the majority of the workforce in the next few years, but Generation Z—made up of people born in the mid-'90s or later—isn't far behind. There's something a bit unsettling about the name (are there any generations left after Z?), but according to a new national survey, this segment of the population is all about planning for the future.
The survey, conducted by Northeastern University, asked over 1,000 teenagers between ages 16 and 19 about their thoughts on the future, finances, and technology. Perhaps chastened by seeing their parents struggle with the financial downturn just a few years ago, 60% of respondents are concerned about having enough money, and 64% are worried about getting a job. They're really not excited by the prospect of student loan debt (who is?), and a quarter of all respondents don't think they could handle any debt at all.
Nonetheless, this generation thinks college is important—and the Generation Z'ers aren't too optimistic about the prospect of online degrees. Some 8 in 10 respondents believe college is "very or extremely important" to achieving their career goals (compared to 7 in 10 members of the general public), and two-thirds think the cost is worth it. In 2012, 67% of young professionals said they thought online degrees will be as accepted as traditional college degrees—but just 52% of Generation Z respondents believe that.
Generation Z has no illusions about staying in comfy corporate jobs. Over four in ten respondents think they'll work for themselves in their careers (that is, according to the U.S. Census, more than four times higher than the actual percentage of people who work for themselves). Some 63% of respondents also think that entrepreneurship should be taught in college.
Surprisingly, Gen Zers seems to be generally tech-averse, or at least is more interested in human interactions than online ones. Only about 15% of respondents say they'd prefer to talk to their friends via social media instead of in-person (really, who would prefer that, though?), and 38% say they make most of their purchases online. Maybe this generation is social media shy because of past experience; over half of all respondents say they know people who have been stalked online or cyber-bullied.
These kids are is generally liberal when it comes to some of the social issues of our time. Almost three fourths of respondents believe everyone should have the right to marry and that transgender people should have equal rights. Over half of all respondents think everyone should have the right to become a citizen, and almost two third think that health care should be free for all. It's possible, of course, that this generation will become more socially conservative when it gets older. But overall, Generation Z seems to have a pretty good head on its shoulders.