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Looking Ahead to Gen Z: Demographic Patterns and Spending Trends

Looking Ahead to Gen Z: Demographic Patterns and Spending Trends

This Packaged Facts report analyzes the consumer behavior of Generation Z teens and young adults. It includes an overview of key trends shaping the Gen Z consumer market and highlights opportunities for marketers reaching out to Gen Z consumers. The report offers demographic and economic profiles of Gen Z and examines the shopping behavior and spending patterns of Gen Z consumers and well as their receptivity to media and marketing approaches.

Generational definitions are fluid, as market researchers and demographers do not always agree about when one generation ends and another begins. Also, since generations age one year at a time, in any given year the standard multi-year age groupings in published data do not necessarily overlap various generational definitions.

This Packaged Facts report defines Gen Z as including the 13- to 24-year-old age group and further segments Gen Z into young adults in the 18- to 24-year-old age group and teens (13- to 17-year-olds). A number of the surveys cited in the report cover different segments of Gen Z, such as 13- to 19-year-olds or 13- to 21-year-olds. Census Bureau data used in the report sometimes include the 15- to 17-year-old and 15- to 24-year-old age groups. Comparisons with other age groups include Millennials (defined as 25- to 39-year-olds) and adults in the 40-and-over age group.


  • Executive Summary
    • Overview
      • Scope and Methodology
    • Demographic Profile
      • Population of 13- to 24-Year-Olds Reaches 52 Million
      • Gen Z Is Far More Diverse Than Other Generations
      • Gender Fluidity Is a Marker of Gen Z
      • Religious Institutions Lose Influence Among Gen Z Teens
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Politically Engaged
      • 18- to 24-Year-Olds Are Now Much Less Likely to Live Independently
      • Cohabitation Far More Common
      • Teen Marriages and Births Have Declined Precipitously
    • Economic Profile
      • School Defines the Lives of Most Gen Z Teens and Younger Adults
      • Educational Achievement Is on the Upswing
      • Teen Employment Trends Downward
      • Summer Jobs Have Become Less Common
      • Older Teens Much More Likely to Work
      • Working Becomes Part of Life When Teen Years End
      • Employment Patterns Vary Widely by Race and Hispanic Origin
      • A Substantial Percentage of Young Adults Have Managerial or Professional Jobs
      • Level of Personal Income of Gen Z Reflects Earning Capacity
      • Gen Z Is Much More Likely to Depend on Earnings From Self-Employment
    • Overview of Shopping Habits and Spending Patterns
      • Brick-and-Mortar Shopping Still Appeals to Gen Z
      • New Stores More Likely to Appeal to 18- to 24-Year-Olds
      • Gen Z Young Adults Less Likely Than Millennials to Buy Online
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Likely to Be Sole Purchase Decision-Maker
      • Parents Are a Major Source of Teen Spending Power
      • Food and Clothing Dominate Teen Spending Priorities
      • Aggregate Income of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Totals $463 Billion
      • Expenditures of Gen Z Consumer Units Total $260 Billion
    • Highlights of Consumer Spending
      • Gen Z Young Adult Males Especially Drawn to Spending on Clothing
      • Under-25 Consumer Units Spend $9.8 Billion on Apparel
      • In-Home Entertainment Soaks Up Biggest Share of Gen Z Entertainment Expenditures
      • Gen Z Is Attached To Cellphones
      • Entertainment Choices Stand Out
      • Gen Z Likely to Continue America's Love Affair with Cars
      • Used Cars Favored by Gen Z
      • Gen Z Young Adults Far More Likely to Eat Out
    • Use of Financial Services
      • Gen Z Young Adults More Likely Than Their Millennial Predecessors to Have Bank Accounts
      • Gen Z Most Likely to Use Mobile Banking Apps but Brick-and-Mortar Branches Still Appeal
      • Many Teens Are Super Savers
      • 67% of Teens Have Access to Bank Accounts
      • Multicultural Young Adults Drive Growth in Ownership of Bank Accounts
      • Multicultural Young Adults Are a Growing Force in Ownership of Credit and Debit Cards
      • 19% of Teens Have Access to a Credit Card, 40% Have a Debit Card
      • Digital and Mobile Payments Preferred by Gen Z
    • Marketing to Gen Z
      • Instagram and Snapchat Win Out Over Facebook
      • Conventional Celebrities Lose Out to Social Media Stars
      • Brands Ramp Up Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Reach Gen Z
      • Traditional Promotional Strategies Are Less Likely to Influence Gen Z
      • Advertising in Traditional Media Still Attracts Attention from Gen Z Young Adults
      • College Market Represents a Multi-Billion Dollar Target for Brands
      • College Students Favor Twitter or Instagram
      • Old-Fashioned Direct Marketing Still Gets Results on College Campuses
      • Most Hispanic Young Adults Stay Connected to Their Heritage
      • Many Gen Z Latino Young Adults See Spanish-Language Advertising as Mark of Respect
      • African American Young Adults More Receptive to Advertising
  • Insights and Opportunities
    • Overview of Gen Z
      • Gen Z Makes an Impact
      • A Paradoxical Generation
      • Plotting a Different Course
      • A Generation of Savers and Strivers
      • Far From Monolithic
      • "A Tough Nut to Crack" for Marketers
    • Marketing Opportunities
      • Gen Z Offers a Big Payoff for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers
      • Omnichannel In-Store Systems Required to Engage Gen Z Shoppers
      • Retailers Reach Out to Gen Z With a Heightened Store Experience
      • Clothes Matter to Gen Z
      • Abercrombie & Fitch Reinvents Itself With Inclusive Gen Z Strategy
      • Brick-and-Mortar World of Gen Z Consumers Extends Beyond Retail Stores
      • Gender Fluidity of Gen Z Opens New Terrain for Marketers
      • Gen Z Represents Significant Market Segment for Consumer Electronics
      • Target Aims at Gen Z With New Consumer Electronics Brand
      • Video Games Offer Unique Marketing Platform
      • Gen Z Represents a Key Market for Restaurant Industry
      • Gen Z Young Adults Can Offer High ROI for Marketers
      • Gen Z Is Highly Receptive to Financial Services
      • Financial Education Seen as Key Tool in Establishing Relationships with Gen Z
      • Multicultural Young Adults Spark Growth in Banking Services
      • Members of Gen Z Remain Strong Prospects for Auto Industry
  • Demographic Profile
    • Population Trends
      • Population of 13- to 24-Year-Olds Reaches 52 Million
        • Table U.S. Population by Age Group/Generation, 2016 (in thousands)
      • Gen Z Is Far More Diverse Than Other Generations
        • Table U.S. Population by Age Group/Generation and Race and Hispanic Origin, 2016 (in thousands)
      • One-Third of 13- to 24-Year-Olds Live in Just Four States
        • Table States with Largest Populations of 13- to 24-Year-Olds, 2016 (in thousands)
    • Social and Political Views
      • Gender Fluidity Is a Marker of Gen Z
      • When It Comes to Gen Z's Views of Diversity, It's Complicated
      • Religious Institutions Lose Influence Among Gen Z Teens
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Politically Engaged
        • Table Partisan Affiliation and Political Orientation of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017
      • Political Profile of Gen Z Varies Across Race and Hispanic Origin
        • Table Political Orientation of 18- to 24-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017 (in thousands)
      • Young Women Are More Likely to Be Political Activists
      • Today's 18- to 24-Year-Olds Are More Environmentally Conscious
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Recycling, 2007 vs. 2017
    • Living Arrangements of Gen Z
      • Most Gen Z Teens Still Live in Family Households
        • Table Living Arrangements of 15- to 19-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017
      • 18- to 24-Year-Olds Are Now Much Less Likely to Live Independently
        • Table Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Living in Own Household vs. Households of Others, 1970 vs. 2017
      • Cohabitation Far More Common
        • Table Spouses and Cohabiting Partners as Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Living with a Partner by Gender, Selected Years 1970-2016
        • Table Characteristics of Couples in Households Headed by 15- to 24-Year-Olds (in thousands)
    • Social Indicators
      • Gen Z Teens Are Better Off Than Millennial Counterparts in a Number of Ways
        • Table Changes in School Enrollment and Labor Force Participation for 15- to 19-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2007 vs. 2016
        • Table Living Arrangements of 15- to 19-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2007 vs. 2016
      • Teen Marriages and Births Have Declined Precipitously
        • Table Changes in Marital Status for 15- to 19-Year-Old Males and Females by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2007 vs. 2016
  • Economic Profile
    • Educational Achievement
      • School Defines the Lives of Most Gen Z Teens and Younger Adults
        • Table Percent of 15- to 24-Year-Olds Enrolled in Educational Institutions by Age Group and Type of Institution, 2016
      • Educational Achievement Is on the Upswing
        • Table Educational Attainment of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017
    • Employment Trends
      • Teen Employment Trends Downward
      • Summer Jobs Have Become Less Common
      • School Gets Priority Over Work
      • Older Teens Much More Likely to Work
        • Table Employment Status of 16- to 19-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2017
      • Working Becomes Part of Life When Teen Years End
        • Table Employment Status of 16- to 24-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2017
        • Table Work Experience of 15- to 24-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2016
      • Young Adult Men More Likely to Work Full-Time
        • Table Work Experience of 18- to 24-Year-Olds by Gender, 2016
      • Employment Patterns Vary Widely by Race and Hispanic Origin
        • Table Work Experience of 15- to 24-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2016
      • A Substantial Percentage of Young Adults Have Managerial or Professional Jobs
        • Table Leading Occupations of Employed 20- to 24-Year-Olds, 2017
    • Income Levels
      • Level of Personal Income of Gen Z Reflects Earning Capacity
        • Table Income of 15- to 24-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2016
      • Gen Z Is Much More Likely to Depend on Earnings From Self-Employment
      • Earnings Gender Gap Still Holds Among Young Adults in Gen Z
        • Table Earnings of 18- to 24-Year-Olds with Associate's Degree or More by Gender, 2016
  • Overview of Shopping Habits and Spending Patterns
    • Shopping Habits
      • Brick-and-Mortar Shopping Still Appeals to Gen Z
        • Table Percent Shopping at Brick-and-Mortar Stores in Last Three Months by Category of Store and by Age Group, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adults Have Positive Thoughts About Brick-and-Mortar Shopping
        • Table Attitudes Toward Shopping, 18- to 24-Year-Olds vs. All Adults, 2017
      • New Stores and Specialty Stores More Likely to Appeal to 18- to 24-Year-Olds
        • Table Importance of New Stores and Specialty Stores, 18- to 24-Year-Olds vs. All Adults, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adults Less Likely Than Millennials to Buy Online
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Likely to Be Sole Purchase Decision-Maker
        • Table Percent of Those Making Purchase in Last 12 Months by Category of Item Purchased, 18- to 24-Year-Olds vs. All Adults, 2017
    • Spending Patterns of Gen Z Teens
      • 15- to 17-Year-Olds Generate Significant Personal Income
        • Table Aggregate Income of 15- to 17-Year-Olds, 2016
      • Parents Remain a Significant Source of Teen Spending Power
      • Parents Spend $25 Billion on Clothing and Miscellaneous Items for Teens
        • Table Aggregate Family Spending on 15- to 17-Year-Olds for Clothing and Miscellaneous Items Including Personal Care Items, Entertainment, and Reading Materials, 2016
      • Food and Clothing Dominate Teen Spending Priorities
    • Spending Power of Gen Z Young Adults
      • Aggregate Income of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Totals $463 Billion
        • Table Aggregate Income of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2016
      • College Education Leads to Higher Incomes for Gen Z Young Adults
        • Table Earnings of 18- to 24-Year-Olds with Associate's Degree or More, 2016
        • Table Earnings of 18- to 24-Year-Olds with Associate's Degree or More by Gender, 2016
    • Overview of Gen Z Consumer Units
      • Gen Z Consumer Units Defined
      • Profile of Gen Z Consumer Units
        • Table Characteristics of Consumer Units, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, July 2016-June 2017
        • Table Characteristics of Consumer Units With Reference Person Under 25 Years of Age by Size of Consumer Unit, 2015-2016
      • Expenditures of Gen Z Consumer Units Total $260 Billion
        • Table Mean Income and Aggregate Consumer Expenditures of Consumer Units With Reference Person Under 25 Years of Age, July 2016-June 2017
        • Table Aggregate Income and Consumer Expenditures of Consumer Units With Reference Person Under 25 Years of Age by Size of Consumer Unit, 2015-2016
      • Spending Priorities of Gen Z Consumer Units Differ
        • Table Key Differences in Spending Priorities, Under-25 vs. All Households, July 2016-June 2017
  • Highlights of Consumer Spending
    • Apparel
      • Gen Z Young Adults Place High Priority on Buying Apparel
        • Table Attitudes Toward Buying Clothes by Gender and Age Group, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adult Males Especially Drawn to Spending on Clothing
        • Table Percent of Total Consumer Expenditures by Single Men and Women for Men's and Women's Clothing by Age Group, 2015-2016
      • Gen Z Women Outpace Apparel Expenditures of Older Women
      • Under-25 Consumer Units Spend $9.8 Billion on Apparel
        • Table Aggregate Expenditures by Under-25 Consumer Units for Apparel and Related Services, July 2016-June 2017 (in million $)
    • Consumer Electronics and Entertainment
      • Gen Z Allocate Below-Average Ratio of Expenditures to Entertainment
        • Table Percent of Total Consumer Expenditures Allocated to Entertainment, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, July 2016-June 2017
      • In-Home Soaks Up Biggest Share of Gen Z Entertainment Expenditures
        • Table Aggregate Expenditures by Under-25 Consumer Units for Entertainment, July 2016-June 2017 (in million $)
      • Gen Z Is Glued to Cellphones
      • Cellphones Are a Major Expense for Gen Z
      • Gen Z Lags in Ownership of PCs and Tablets
      • Gen Z Most Likely to Download Entertainment
      • Video Games Most Popular Among Gen Z
      • Movies and Live Entertainment Events Are Still Important to Gen Z
        • Table Attendance at Live Entertainment Events in Last 12 Months by Age Group, 2017
    • Automotive
      • Gen Z Likely to Continue America's Love Affair with Cars
      • Automakers Hedge Bets to Accommodate Gen Z City Dwellers
      • Used Cars Favored by Gen Z
        • Table Percent of Total Consumer Expenditures Allocated to Vehicle Purchases and Related Items by Category, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, July 2016-June 2017
        • Table Aggregate Expenditures by Under-25 Households for Vehicle Purchases and Related Items, July 2016-June 2017 (in million $)
    • Food
      • Gen Z Moves Toward Healthier Food
      • Gen Z Is More Willing to Experiment With New Foods
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Trying Out New Foods, 2007 vs. 2017
      • Eating Habits of Young Adults Have Changed Over the Past Decade
        • Table Percent of At-Home Food Expenditures Allocated to Miscellaneous Foods, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, 2015-2016
        • Table Percent of Households with 18- to 24-Year-Old Household Head Eating Packaged or Frozen Meals, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adults Far More Likely to Eat Out
  • Use of Financial Services
    • Banking Services
      • Gen Z Adults More Likely Than Millennial Predecessors to Have Bank Accounts
      • Gen Z Most Likely to Use Mobile Banking Apps, but Brick-and-Mortar Still Appeals
      • Many Teens Are Super Savers
      • 67% of Teens Have Access to Bank Accounts
      • Most Gen Z Teens Are Comfortable With Traditional Banking Institutions
      • Multicultural Young Adults Drive Growth in Ownership of Bank Accounts
        • Table Ownership of Bank Accounts by Non-Hispanic White and Multicultural 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017 (in thousands)
    • Ownership and Use of Credit and Debit Cards
      • Gen Z Moves Toward Increased Ownership of Debit/ATM Cards
      • Multicultural Young Adults Are Growing Force in Credit and Debit Cards
        • Table Ownership and Use of Credit and Debit/ATM Cards by Non-Hispanic White and Multicultural 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017 (in thousands)
      • 19% of Teens Have Access to a Credit Card, 40% Have a Debit Card
      • New Credit Cards Launched to Meet Needs of Gen Z
    • Other Financial Services Trends
      • Gen Z Teens Favor Cash and Peer-to-Peer Payment Services
      • Digital and Mobile Payments Preferred by Older Members of Gen Z
      • 18- to 24-Year-Olds More Likely to Use Cash to Pay Bills
        • Table Methods and Forms of Bill Paying Used by Those Paying Their Own Bills by Age Group, 2017
  • Marketing to Gen Z
    • Overview
      • Brands Most Likely to Find Gen Z on Social Media
      • Instagram and Snapchat Win Out Over Facebook
      • Gen Z Consumes Vast Quantity of Videos on Social Media
      • Conventional Celebrities Lose Out to Social Media Stars
      • Brands Ramp Up Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Reach Gen Z
      • Gen Z Sets a High Bar for Brands
      • Traditional Promotional Strategies Are Less Likely to Influence Gen Z
      • Advertising in Traditional Media Still Attracts Attention from Gen Z Young Adults
        • Table Attitudes Toward Advertising by Age Group, 2017
    • Marketing to Gen Z College Students
      • Population of 18- to 24-Year-Old College Students Exceeds 12 Million
        • Table Number and Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Year-Olds Enrolled in Undergraduate and Graduate Institutions, October 2016 (in thousands)
        • Table Number and Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Year-Olds Enrolled Part-Time and Full-Time in Undergraduate and Graduate Institution, October 2016 (in thousands)
      • Gender Gap Remains Wide on College Campuses
      • Gen Z College Students Are Far More Diverse Than Their Millennial Predecessors
      • College Market Represents a Multi-Billion Dollar Target for Brands
      • Gen Z College Students More Likely to Use Financial Services
        • Table Use of Financial Services by 18- to 24-Year-Olds, College vs. Non-College Students, 2017
      • College Students Favor Twitter or Instagram
      • Old-Fashioned Direct Marketing Still Gets Results on College Campuses
    • Multicultural Marketing Perspectives
      • Most Hispanic Young Adults Stay Connected to Their Heritage
        • Table Place of Birth and Language Preferences of Hispanics by Age Group, 2017
        • Table Attitudes of Hispanics Toward Hispanic Heritage by Age Group, 2017
      • Many Gen Z Latino Young Adults See Spanish-Language Advertising as Mark of Respect
        • Table Attitudes of Hispanics Toward Spanish-Language Advertising by Age Group, 2017
      • African American Young Adults More Receptive to Advertising
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Advertising by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017
      • African American Young Adults Most Likely to Turn to Traditional Media
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Traditional Media by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017

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