By Irine Le
One of the most fascinating aspects of learning more about generational cohorts is looking back and examining the years and important historical, cultural, and social shifts and events that came to shape that generational cohort’s identity.
According to the United States Census Data (via The New York Times), Generation Z is the most diverse generation yet. In 2017, the Census Bureau estimated that about 68 million Americans belong to Generation Z.
Generation Z succeeds Millennials, but precedes Generation Alpha. The Pew Research Center has consistently defined the start and end birth years for Generation Z as 1996 and 2010. This means Gen-Z members range from college students to teens to preteens.
Generation Z’s start year is around 1996, which is only a couple years before the start of the new millennium, 2000. For many, the idea of the new millennium marked the possibility of new changes and societal and technological advancements.
Digital literacy and social activism are two defining aspects of Generation Z. Many Gen-Zers grew up being influenced by the smartphone and social media in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. Popular ‘00s social media sites like Facebook and Myspace were released in the early ‘00s, while the iPhone was released in 2007, and subsequent popular media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat were released in the late 2000s to early 2010s.
The Black Lives Matter movement was first started in 2013, when many Generation-Z members were starting to come of age. Gen-Z members can recall the 2014 Ferguson protests after Mike Brown’s death and the 2015 Baltimore protests after Freddie Gray’s death.
The first general election that older Gen-Z members could vote in was the 2016 election. In the years following the 2016 election, many Gen-Z activists came together to protest regarding issues such as reproductive rights at the annual Women’s March, sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement, and Black Lives Matter this year.
Greta Thunberg is a 17-year-old environmental activist from Sweden who has gained international attention for her speeches and protests. In 2019, she was named TIME’s Person of the Year, and many news outlets have called her “the face of the youth climate-change movement.”
Generation Z has proven to be a unique generational cohort due to the social, historical, and cultural events that have shaped and influenced its members.
While the beginning years of Generation Z are fascinating because they represent advancement and development in technology and social media, the later years within the Generation-Z cohort represent a growing shift toward advocating for race and gender equality, criminal justice, environmental justice, gun control, and more.
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