Resources > Gen Z Attitudes > Walton Family Foundation and Gallup Gen Z Panel

Walton Family Foundation and Gallup Gen Z Panel

The Gen Z Panel is one of the largest and most comprehensive national research surveys tracking the attitudes of Gen Z over time.
September 14, 2023
Female High School Tutor Sitting At Table With Pupils Teaching Maths Class

Gen Z will shape our future. Let’s equip them with the tools they need to succeed.

Students are telling us what they need to succeed. It’s time for us to listen.

The Walton Family Foundation and Gallup Gen Z Panel amplifies the voices of Gen Z. It gives policymakers, researchers and educators key information they need to drive change.

The data is clear: Gen Z is optimistic about their future. But Gen Z students do not feel like their education is giving them the tools they need to thrive. They report dealing with mental health challenges at higher rates than other generations. They feel increasingly dissatisfied with the options presented to them after high school. And they are frustrated with the lack of options to study topics they find interesting.

These problems cannot be solved by sticking to the status quo. Together, we need to be bold. It’s on us to shape an education system that will respond to Gen Z’s concerns and truly set them up for success.

Let’s reimagine education to help Gen Z reach their full potential.


It’s time to listen Gen Z’s attitudes on K-12 education and more.

Today’s insights will help us shape tomorrow’s solutions. Through our partnership with Gallup, we continue to learn more about Gen Z and what they need to be successful in and beyond the classroom. Building off our learnings from the Gen Z Panel, Gallup and WFF released the Voices of Gen Z: Perspectives on STEM Education and Careers, which explores how early exposure to STEM in the classroom can drive engagement in STEM careers.

Chapter 1

Less than half of Gen Z are thriving

Gen Z deserves an education that prepares them with the knowledge and tools they need to thrive.

More than half of Gen Z report they are not thriving. Mental health may play a key role. The data tells us that Gen Z suffers mental health challenges at higher rates than other generations. But the data also tells us that achievement and fulfillment in the classroom can get more Gen Zers to feel like they are thriving.

This is an opportunity to deliver an education system that matches the priorities of today’s students and helps all students thrive.

Only 47%
of Gen Z reports that they are thriving in their lives.

This is the lowest percentage across all generations in the U.S.

Only 20%
of Gen Z rates their mental health as "excellent."

Compare this to the 29% of Millennials, 31% of Gen X and 39% of Baby Boomers who state their mental health as “excellent.”

< 4 in 10
Gen Zers who are no longer in school feel like they are thriving.

After leaving K-12, Gen Z thriving suffers. But satisfaction and optimism rebound if, or after, Gen Z completes a postsecondary degree.

The emotional state of Gen Z students enrolled in middle and high school is connected to their academic performance and attendance. Students with excellent mental health are more than twice as likely as those with fair or poor mental health to say they get excellent grades in school (53% versus 25%). Students with excellent mental health are also less likely to have missed any school in the past month compared to those with fair or poor mental health (41% versus 65%).

Chapter 2

Optimistic but not prepared

Despite the challenges that Gen Zers face, they remain hopeful about the future. 

However, not many report actually feeling prepared. Education can close this gap. As the interests of Gen Z shift alongside our ever-changing world, our Gen Z research continues to fuel our own learning journey. This moment calls for education leaders and innovators to design engaging, career-relevant curriculum that better prepares students.

< 50%
of Gen Zers say their school provides hands-on STEM experiences.

These experiences include building electrical circuits, programming robots, or using 3D printers. Despite decades of STEM investment, an educational shift is needed to introduce students to skills they can apply to actual STEM careers.

of Gen Z girls doubt their STEM abilities, versus 38% of boys.

Providing hands-on activities is an important step in building confidence in STEM abilities and is key to bringing more girls to STEM career pathways.

Students are 5x
more likely to pursue STEM careers

when they encounter four or more technology-related topics in schools compared to those exposed to one or more.

Our schools should provide students with relevant experiences and education to help them navigate the workforce one day.
Stephanie Marken
Gallup partner and executive director for education research

Chapter 3

Engaged, but seeking purpose

Gen Z needs a curriculum that excites them.

Gen Z students feel supported by their teachers and classmates. But their education experience doesn’t match their skills and interests.

Most students have a best friend at school and a teacher who makes them excited about the future. However, they are having trouble with their schoolwork. Many don’t feel like they learn things that prepare them for the future. Others feel like their work doesn’t challenge them. Even more say they don’t get to do what they do best at school.

We have a duty to our students to reimagine classwork so they can reach their full potential.

Only 2 in 5
students say they get to do what they do best every day at school.

Gen Z’s education doesn’t support their skills and interests.

37% of Gen Zers
disagreed when asked if they had learned anything interesting at school in the last seven days.

Schools must support innovation to engage all students.

This is a critical moment for youth and for the adults supporting them. This partnership with Gallup will generate insights and perspectives to help us all be better guides, better listeners and better partners as the next generation rises.
Romy Drucker
director of the Education Program at the Walton Family Foundation

Chapter 4

A financial quandary

Gen Z wants financial security. We need to help them get there.

Despite the notion that Gen Z doesn’t want to work, “making enough money to live comfortably” is a priority for their future. At the same time, students don’t know how to choose the best path to do this.

It is on us to prepare students for stable futures. We must expose them to in-demand careers and affordable options after high school.

Gen Z
wants to work.

When asked about the future they want, Gen Zers were most likely to say they hope to work at a paid job. One-third said they would like to start their own business.

of Gen Zers report financial resources standing in their way.

Gen Z sees financial constraints as an obstacle to reaching their goals. 41% are unsure how to choose the best path. 37% lack information about potential pathways.

> 80%
of Gen Zers consider going to college a top priority.

Still, many are concerned about financial barriers and the potential impacts of student loan debt.

“If there's one thing that really typifies Gen Z is that they want to be their best selves, but they don't want to be it in a vacuum. They want to be contributors to the world being a better place.”
Suzy Welch
professor, NYU Stern; senior advisor, Brunswick Group