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Looking Forward With Gen Z

In the Spring of 2022, Murmuration and the Walton Family Foundation set out to learn about Generation Z from their own perspective, uncovering how they are feeling about the future.
June 23, 2022
A smiling student standing on stairs wearing a backpack and holding books

How do Gen Z see themselves and their futures?

Lots of people are talking ABOUT Gen Z. Far fewer are talking TO young people. That has to change.

Building on the growing body of work to help understand Gen Z’s values, political activity and interests, Murmuration and the Walton Family Foundation today released the research report “Looking Forward with Gen Z” to better understand and prepare for the outsized level of influence this generation will have on society.

The project, conducted by John Della Volpe and SocialSphere, aims to add depth and detail to vital questions about how Gen Z sees their future, determines their values, and to understand their expectations of public and private institutions.

Young people prioritize their own health and happiness, and the health and happiness of their friends and family, over getting involved in politics, advocacy, or other efforts.

They care deeply about the issues our society is grappling with (inequality, racism, school shootings, climate, democracy, etc.), but they don’t always have the bandwidth to do both. Having seen the challenges that their parents have faced, and in many cases the limits on their ability to drive the meaningful change they seek, they are choosing to make sure they are okay before considering anything else. The investments we make to ensure more and better support for mental health, and the rebuilding of a sense of community throughout the country, will help to unlock the tremendous power that Zoomers possess.

Gen Z is battling a mental health crisis.

Relative to their elders over age 25, Gen Z is about twice as likely (42% to 23%) to battle depression and feelings of hopelessness. They are also three times as likely (18% to 5%) to say their challenges are so severe that they have had thoughts of self-harm or that they might be better off dead. Still, Gen Z is not giving in. When compared to members of other generations, more Zoomers say they “strongly agree” that “standing up for those who are vulnerable, or without a voice, is an important part of who they are.” They care about the people around them, and want to make a change.

of Gen Z strongly agree that standing up for those who are vulnerable, or without a voice, is an important part of who they are.

Only 37% of Millennials feel the same way.

of Zoomers strongly agree with the sentiment that they want to be a part of something that improves their community and country.

Gen Z connected with this statement more than any other generation.

A majority of students don’t feel prepared for life after graduation.

Just over half (51%) of Gen Z believed that their local schools prepared them well for success at this stage in their lives — but only 16% of 15 to 25-year-olds in the survey indicated that local schools prepared them “very well.” The remaining half of the sample reported that local schools did not prepare them well (16% not very well, 10% poorly) —  or the more neutral response (neither well nor unwell, 24%).

of Gen Z believes their local schools prepared them well for success at this stage in their lives.

But only 16% of 15-25 year-olds indicated that they were “very well” prepared by their local schools.

Gen Zers are interested in conventional office jobs or sales and management roles.

Very few Zoomers showed an interest in the jobs that their parents once, or currently, hold.

This next generation defines success differently, so how can we prepare them for their futures, and their lives beyond high school?