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Statistically Speaking: The Newest Home Furnishings Consumers: Generation Z

Study Shows More Racially Diverse Gen Zs Faring Better Today Than Millennial High Schoolers and Early College Teens of 2010.

The newest consumers entering the furniture and home furnishings industry, known as Generation Z, are reaching adulthood, but the vast majority are still in their teenage years. While much has been written about their psychographic profiles, research published by the Census Bureau quantifies demographically how these high school and early college age teenagers, regardless of race, are faring better than the previous generation of Millennials at the same age. Generation Z is benefiting from stronger economic times, more affluent Generation X parents, and more stable households. Education also appears to be a big contributor.

In 2010, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) profiled Millennials ages 15 to 19, and newly released ACS 2018 data has done the same for Generation Z at the same ages. Generation Z includes anyone born in 1997 through 2009, although the end date is still under heavy debate. The ACS profile offers changing demographic and household characteristics in these two generations as teenagers, all encouraging for these future Generation Z adult consumers. Last year, Statistically Speaking began looking specifically at Generation Z, also known as iGen, Centennials, or the New Silent Generation. This article compares the core high school and early college ages statistically to Millennials by race, suggesting this new melting pot generation is entering adulthood better prepared and without all of the drama.

Population/Generation Size
Although currently a smaller cohort than the generations preceding it with the end date still under debate, Generation Z accounted for 54.9 million people in 2019 – roughly 17% of the U.S. population (Table A). The newest generation, recently coined Generation Alpha, is currently at 40.4 million people and some demographers differ on the start year – placing the first year at 2012 rather than 2010. The year 2010 reflects the year the iPad was introduced.

Many studies have explored the differences between teenagers today (Gen Zs) and those in the Millennial generation (Figure 1). While Millennials grew up during healthier economic times, the recession hit as many entered the workforce faced with exorbitant college debt. On the flip side, Generation Z has grown up more mindful of the economy and financial issues, making them more realistic and pragmatic.

A big influence on Generation Z has been technology. Teenagers today have grown up in an age of rapid innovation. They do not know a world before mobile technology where everything is immediate. Due to the increased diversity among American teens and access to content around the world, Generation Z appears more interested in and accepting of different cultures and ideology. Because the year span is shorter, there were about 3% fewer Generation Z, 15 to 19-year-olds, in 2018 than there were Millennials in 2010, but they are much more diverse (Table B). The population of both White and Black/African American teenagers in 2018 has dropped 9% from teenagers in 2010, while the number of Hispanics has increased 11% alongside an increase of 17% for all other races.

School Enrollment
Possibly for the first time in history, over 85% of all White, Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinos ages 15 to 19 are enrolled in high school or early college, as shown in Table C. The greatest strides have been made among Hispanic and Latino teens, increasing 2.3 percentage points.

Depicted in Table D, private school enrollment is up for Generation Z compared to previous Millennials by 0.5% to 1% for all races. For Gen Z, 16.2% of White teenagers in 2018 were enrolled in private school, compared to 15.5% of 2010 Millennials. As a percent of the total teenage population, Black/African Americans ages 15 to 18 have the highest increase in those attending private school -- 9.2% of the Gen Zs in 2018 compared to 8.1% of Millennials in 2010. Hispanic/Latino teenagers have gained some ground in private school attendance but still only represent 7.6% of their race.

Households with Teenagers
As Generation Z has aged into adolescence, households with teenagers are becoming more diverse. Hispanics and Latino teen households increasing up to 24.6% of teen households in 2018, compared to 21.6% for Millennial households in 2010. The percentage of households with White teenagers has dropped 3.4% alongside a decrease of 1.3% for Black/African Americans over eight years (Table E).

One slowly changing, but important household demographic is more teenage Gen Zs are living in parent married-couple households than Millennial teenagers did in 2010 – up 1.1% across all races. The number of teens living in male household families is up slightly at 8.3% in 2018, compared to 7.9% in 2010 and female households with no husband has dropped down to 26.1% in 2018 from 27.6% in 2010 (Table F).

In another important trend, the teenage birth rate has dropped dramatically for Generation Z teens across all races compared to Millennial teens at the same ages (Table G). The rate for all teenagers 15 to 19 is down to 1.2 births per 1,000 teens in 2018 from 2.6 in 2010. For Black/African American teenagers, the birth rate decreased from 4.2 births per 1,000 teenagers for Millennials in 2010 to 1.9 for Generation Z. Hispanic/Latinos also saw a large drop in the teenage birth rate with the Generation Z rate falling to 1.7 births per 1,000 teens in 2018 – down from 4.3 in 2010.

Teenage Labor Force
Although some researchers have said there are less teenagers today with jobs due to school-focused activities, according to the Census Bureau, the percentages of teenagers in the labor force has increased across all races from 2010 to 2018 (Table H). The percent of both White and Hispanic/Latino teenagers in the labor force has grown by 1%, while 2.7% more of Black/African Americans were part of the workforce in 2018 compared to 2010.

Data shows that Generation Z teenagers are less idle than the Millennial teens of 2010. More teenagers in 2018 were either in school or working. From 2010 to 2018, the percentage of teenagers across all races not enrolled in school and not in the labor force dropped from 5.6% to 5.0% (Table I). Over eight years “idleness” among White teenagers decreased by 0.3%. For Black/African American teens idleness fell by 1.1%, and by 1.5% for Hispanic/Latino teens.

Although many of the percentage increases and decreases comparing Generation Z to Millennials at the same teen ages seem small, these strides are important. No doubt Generation Z appears to be approaching adulthood more quietly, confidently, and better prepared than Millennials. All of these strides will benefit the furniture and home furnishings industries and the economy in total.

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