Generational cohorts and their differences can be a great lens to understand everything from finances to workplace culture. And that's no different with Gen Z.
There are stereotypes and beliefs that may fuel misunderstandings amongst those who are labeled Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z.
If you're here looking for the quick answer on what is the Gen Z age range, here you go:
Gen Z Age Range is roughly 11 to 26 years old today.
However, the lower end of this generation is subject to change (it took years before the millennial age range was "finalized"). People are already calling the next generation Gen Alpha.
Let's dive in to what this means and why you should care.
Why Is There A Need To Understand Generational Differences?
You might be curious about where you fall within your specific generation—do you agree with work and financial sentiments? Are you ahead or behind the curve? It makes sense to understand how your specific cohort lives—what kind of income do they earn and how much do they owe in student loans?
From a business perspective, knowing specific generational behaviors and how social media or technology is being used, for example, could be highly relevant for a product or service. Also, companies that are in dire need for qualified employees might want to understand aspirations and concerns faced by a specific generation.
Take a look, as we dig into each generation and gain a better idea of whether the numbers substantiate the stereotypes.
Generational Quick Facts
Here are typical incomes and debt faced by the average Millennial and Gen Z.
Current Age Range
(Households headed by age 25-44)
(Households headed by person age 15-24)
Not yet available
$17,338* (as of 2021)
As of now, Millennials are among the highest wage earners in the United States, and they are the most educated. Gen Z is just launching into the workforce, but so far has lower student debt loads than Millennials.
Of course, these numbers could change. In particular, we may see more members of Gen Z returning to school and taking on debt to complete their formal education. Graduate debt continues to increase each year, so Gen Z may see student loan balances increase if they return to school in large numbers.
Millennial And Gen Z Similarities
Millennials and Gen Z share two important characteristics that may shape workplaces and the economy as a whole.
Off To An Economic Slow Start
A large proportion of Millennials saw their professional growth stymied by:
- The dot com bubble bursting (2000-2002)
- The housing collapse (2006-2007)
- A relatively slow economic recovery
Hampered by student loans and a sluggish economy, Millennials delayed major milestones (marriage, first child, buying a house) compared to previous generations.
Millennial Age Range And What It Means, Financially
Are Millennials shaping or destroying our economy? We dig deeper into Millennial age ranges and examine their spending habits, student loan debt, and more.
Gen Z may face similar sluggish conditions as they enter the workforce. Following a decade of economic growth, Gen Z’s first college graduates entered the workforce just months before the world shut down because of Covid-19.
The current recessionary conditions may also hamper growth for Gen Z as they enter the workforce.
Earning extra income outside of the day job may prove to be a necessity for many members of Gen Z.
Millennials came of age during the first internet explosion and were some of the earliest adopters of social media platforms. Gen Z grew up with internet technology around them, including streaming platforms and other forms of on-demand entertainment.
Digital-first forms of communication (IM, Zoom, Text, etc.) have already infiltrated American workplaces. Gen Z is sure to influence future communication patterns—though they may revolt against the always-on culture and help regulate the constant flow of information.
Appetite For Activism
Seventy percent of the Gen Zers want the government to do more to solve societal problems. Additionally, 64% of Millennials want the same thing. Despite their age, Gen Zers have been lauded for their activism on human rights, climate change and a general desire to lean into activism.
Millennial And Gen Z Differences
While Millennials and Gen Z share some similarities, the two cohorts may differ on some important points.
Attitudes Towards Education
At this point, Millennials have the most formal education of any generation. As of 2020, 39% had college degrees. By contrast, Gen Z may be more wary of the costs and benefits associated with a four-year degree.
The pandemic shutdowns dramatically reduced college enrollment among Gen Z with nearly a million fewer students enrolling in post-secondary education between 2019 and 2021.
It remains to be determined whether Gen Z will continue this trend or reverse it as Covid-based restrictions continue to loosen. If Gen Z reverses the trend towards increasing formal education, the generation may avoid the burdensome debt that plagues so many Millennials.
Millennials May Receive Large Inheritances
Between 2021-2045, Millennials are likely to be the largest recipients of the “Great Wealth Transfer.”
Boomers currently have more than $70 trillion in assets that will likely be bequeathed to their Millennial children. However, this wealth is largely concentrated among the ultra-wealthy and may not have broad implications for the typical Millennials.
Millennials are currently the largest contributors to the U.S. Workplace (around 35% of the total as of 2018), and will remain the largest share of workers for the next few decades. Workplace culture is likely to lean more toward Millennial preferences until Gen Z joins the workforce in larger numbers.
Gen Z Financial Stereotypes: Are They True?
This cohort, with only a small portion currently reaching full adulthood, entered into these years as we grappled with a global pandemic. So far, the generation hasn’t had a lot of time to develop positive or negative stereotypes.
But these are a few that may shape our future economy.
Gen Z Doesn’t See Value In A College Education
Before Covid-19, Gen Z was on track to be the best-educated generation in history. More than 57% of college-eligible individuals were in school in 2018 (compared to 52% of Millennials at comparable ages). But nationwide, college enrollment took a major hit when Covid-19 led to nationwide restrictions.
Between 2019 and 2021, college enrollment dropped by nearly 7%, with more than 1 million students dropping out. Despite the lower enrollment, it remains to be seen whether this is a blip, or if future members of Gen Z forgo the four-year education.
Gen Z Will Never Come Into The Office
Working from home was an often-sought perk of previous generations, but because of Covid-19 changing how we work, some Gen Zers are likely working in a hybrid or fully remote situation.
So will Gen Z ever come into the office? They may expect workplace flexibility, but those in the high school age range don’t see it as a very important factor right now. In a survey, only 23% rated the ability to work remotely as a very important part of a future job. Perhaps a follow-up survey—after they enter the workforce, will change these numbers drastically!
Gen Z Has A Short Attention Span
Gen Z grew up with WiFi-enabled cell phones and social media. They are the first generation to have experienced the “Always On” phenomenon associated with constant online connectedness from childhood.
Various forms of clinical research have concluded that for certain activities, Gen Z has an 8-second attention span. Millennials have a 12-second span.
The upside is that Gen Z may have also developed more skills for filtering out unnecessary information. How it all plays out—whether it’s helpful or a hindrance in the workplace remains to be seen.
As Gen Z enters adulthood, their actions and choices will continue to be influenced by economic forces outside of their control. Whether the cohort eschews formal education and the accompanying student debt remains to be seen.
Despite the hoopla and stereotypes of Millennials and Gen Z, the two groups share some similar characteristics that are likely to shape the economy as a whole.
Hannah is a wife, mom, and described personal finance geek. She excels with spreadsheets (and puns)! She regularly explores in-depth financial topics and enjoys looking at the latest tools and trends with money.
Editor: Claire Tak Reviewed by: Robert Farrington