It’s well known that economic pressures and student loan debt have had a major impact on the Millennial generation. By the time Millennials were graduating high school, the cost of a 4-year education had risen dramatically, as median income was stagnating, putting Millennials at a disadvantage compared to their Baby Boomer parents and leading them to postpone common life stage developments such as buying homes and getting married. (CivicScience has tracked the wealth gap in Millennial homebuying and financial outlook in-depth in the past).

As Millennials continue to trail behind older generations, an important question today is how the next in line – the Gen Z generation – will fare in comparison. Are the lessons of the Millennial generation influencing Gen Z’s life choices? Many signs point to ‘yes’ – Gen Z is already making very different choices and has distinctly different ways of seeing things, particularly when it comes to education and careers.

CivicScience looked at what today’s Gen Z adults foresee for their futures, including what they value in terms of careers and other important life stage markers, such as homebuying and marriage. Here are six top consumer insights that emerge from the data:

1. Science & tech industries lead the way.

When asked which industry they were most interested in working in, 1-in-5 Gen Z adults (18-24) answered tech, sciences, and engineering. They are on par with younger Millennials (25-34) in this regard, but they are more likely than Millennials to want to pursue careers in sales; finances and banking; and arts, entertainment, and media. (In fact, a related study found that a strong percentage of Gen Zers aged 13+ are interested in becoming online content creators.)

On the other hand, Gen Z adults are less likely to want to work in government or social services and in the trades compared to younger Millennials.

2. Working for large- and medium-sized companies is more appealing.

As they move into the workforce and set out on their careers, which types of companies or employers are Gen Z hoping to find jobs with?

Data suggest that half of Gen Z adults want to work for large-sized employers of 1,500+ employees (23%) or medium-sized employers of 100-1,500 employees (27%) in the next five years (n=2,272 excluding ‘does not apply’). Compared to younger Millennials, who are more established in the workforce, Gen Z adults are less interested in working for small-sized employers (16% to 21%) or international companies (4% to 6%). They are also less likely to own or plan to own their own business at this stage (11% to 13%).

Large- and mid-sized employers are most appealing to Gen Zers planning to work in sales/professional, healthcare/medical, financial/banking, and tech/sciences/engineering industries (respectively).

3. Gen Z values work-life balance and ‘fulfilling’ work – in a hybrid work environment.

Contemplating what is most important when it comes to choosing one job over another, Gen Z adults are most likely to answer compensation/salary and benefits are the deciding factors. However, nearly an equal third are likely to name work-life balance and job flexibility.

Compared to young Millennials, Gen Z places a greater value on work-life balance, as well as on working a job they find to be fulfilling or that aligns with their values. They are also twice as likely to prioritize career growth opportunities, and overall much less likely to place a precedence on compensation/salary.

Hybrid and remote work are more attractive to Gen Z. If given the choice, 37% of Gen Z adults say that they prefer a hybrid work environment of working at an office and at home, while 34% would prefer to be fully remote. Fewer would opt for a fully in-person position (29%). 

Gen Z adults who prefer hybrid work are also the most likely to say work-life balance and job flexibility is most important to them.

4. Homeownership and family outweigh marriage goals for Gen Z.

Stepping into the workforce is typically the first major adult life stage milestone. When it comes to homeownership, marriage, and family, Gen Z adults are most likely to say that owning a home is the top priority. 

Among those who have never owned a home, more than half say buying a home is ‘very important’ while an additional quarter say it’s at least ‘somewhat important.’ However, nearly equal percentages also say that having children is important to them. 

What’s key is that marriage is decidedly less important to Gen Z adults than owning a home and starting a family – a little over a third say marriage is ‘very important.’ At least at this point in their lives, Gen Z adults are feeling less enthusiastic about marriage.

5. But homeownership expectations vary widely among Gen Z.

More than 1-in-5 Gen Z adults report owning a home (22%), data derived from the CivicScience InsightStore for the month of June. Putting this into context, data indicate that Gen Z adults today are already ahead of where Millennials were at their age – they are more likely to own homes than 18- to 24-year-olds were five years ago (young Millennials), a CivicScience finding that aligns with other available research on the topic.

Low interest rates during the pandemic may have made owning a home more accessible to Gen Z adults. But today, Gen Z adults who do not own a home and have never purchased one aren’t exactly rushing to buy, as mortgage rates have skyrocketed due to rising interest rates – 15% are looking to purchase one in the next 12 months, 21% in the next 1-2 years. However, nearly 50% are planning to hold off on a first home for 3 or more years, while 17% don’t ever foresee purchasing a home.

6. International living is a possibility for many.

A final insight that bears mentioning: 55% of Gen Z adults are at least ‘somewhat interested’ in moving abroad outside of the U.S. to live and work, while just 22% say they are ‘not at all interested.’ Interest in international living among Gen Z far outweighs that of older adults, even young Millennials (42% are at least ‘somewhat interested’ while 40% are ‘not at all’). 

Want more Gen Z consumer insights? Stay tuned for an updated look at Gen Z’s attitudes and expectations surrounding education and college degrees. 

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