What to expect from Generation Z as they enter the workforce

Demographic shifts indicate that members of Generation Z may be more interested in padding their resumes with academics than work experience.

The first members of Generation Z have hit adulthood, and numbers suggest they mean major demographic changes for America.

A new report by the Pew Research Center has found that “post-Millennials” ages 6-21 are more diverse and more prone to pursuing an education than past generations were. They’re also more concentrated in urban and metropolitan areas — only 13% still reside in rural locations.

As young adults from Generation Z go onto higher education, they’re less likely to be in the workforce, though those who are getting paid more than past generations. Here’s what we know about why so much is changing with Generation Z, and what that means for the future of work.

From first to second generation

A quarter of post-Millennials are Hispanic. But only 12% of Hispanic post-Millennials are foreign-born, compared to 24% of Millennials 16 years ago. Most are children of immigrants, though more than a third were parented by U.S. citizens.

This switch from the first to second generation has major ramifications for Hispanic post-Millennials and their futures. In 2002, only 60% of Hispanic Millennials had completed high school. Last year, 76% of Hispanic 18- to 20-year-olds had finished their secondary education, nearing the overall high school completion rate of 80% for post-Millennials in that age range.

Hispanic students are also now more likely to continue their academic journey after secondary school.

“More than half (55%) of Hispanic 18- to 20-year-olds who were no longer in high school were enrolled in college last year,” according to the Pew report. “Less than half of their Millennial (34%) and Gen X (28%) peers were pursuing college at a similar age.”

Specific corners of the country are disproportionately affected by these demographic changes. 36% of post-Millennials in urban counties and 40% of people ages 6-21 in the West identified as Hispanic.

Leaning in

Almost two-thirds of women ages 18-20 who were no longer in high school were enrolled at a college in 2017. That’s compared to 59% overall, when both genders are taken into account.

The report’s authors hypothesize that women’s increased access to higher education likely stems from lower teen pregnancy rates. Only 12% of women ages 18-21 had children in 2016, compared to 21% of Millennials who were burdened by parenting responsibilities at similar ages.

The report found that even Generation Z women who are “detached” — neither in school nor working — are less likely to be married than similar young women from two generations before them. Together, these numbers seem to indicate that post-Millennials are edging nearer toward modern womanhood, where women prioritize professional success at least as much as their personal lives.

Welcome to work

American consumers may have noticed fewer teenagers behind the counters at fast food restaurants or in other entry-level jobs. That’s because less than 20% of 15- to 17-year-olds said they worked at all in 2017, and this year, only 15% of post-Millennials in the same age group worked full-time.

More than half of people ages 18-21 were employed in 2017; however, that marks a dramatic drop from the nearly three-fourths of Millennials 18-21 who worked in 2001.

These shifts indicate that members of Generation Z may be more interested in padding their resumes with academics than work experience. But for those who do choose to get their hands dirty, the payoff is greater than for past generations: 18- to 21-year-olds today can expect a median paycheck of $19,000, around $2,300 more than Millennials got in 2002.

Alexandra Villarreal|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at avillarreal@theladders.com.