The 31 million 18- to 24-year-olds in the vanguard of Gen Z and the 21 million 13- to 17-year-olds growing up behind them are making a profound impact on the American consumer economy. Gen Z young adults generate an aggregate income of $463 billion, while older teens (15- to 17-year-olds) have an aggregate income of $17 billion and have parents who spend $25 billion on their clothing and categories such as entertainment and personal care items.

This Packaged Facts report provides an in-depth look at how members of Gen Z view the world and analyzes what drives their behavior as consumers. One overriding conclusion of the report is that today’s teens and young adults display a wide range of complicated and contradictory characteristics that create an unparalleled challenge for marketers.

What is the Gen Z demographic searching for?

To begin with, these Gen Z digital natives continue to seek out consumer experiences in the brick-and-mortar world. Compared to adults on average, Gen Z young adults are less likely to buy online and are more likely to make visits to the mall.

What are the defining characteristics of the Gen Z demographic, and how does it affect businesses?

Another defining characteristic of Gen Z is their unprecedented comfort with the idea of gender fluidity and their broad view of sexuality. As a result, marketers have begun to respond to Gen Z consumers by launching gender-neutral marketing campaigns and rolling out gender-neutral products that have traditionally been geared exclusively toward either males or females.

Read on if you want to know more about key trends shaping the Gen Z consumer market.

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Table Of Contents

  • Executive Summary
    • Overview
      • Scope and Methodology
    • Demographic Profile
      • Population of 13- to 24-Year-Olds Reaches 52 Million
      • Gen Z Is Far More Diverse Than Other Generations
      • Gender Fluidity Is a Marker of Gen Z
      • Religious Institutions Lose Influence Among Gen Z Teens
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Politically Engaged
      • 18- to 24-Year-Olds Are Now Much Less Likely to Live Independently
      • Cohabitation Far More Common
      • Teen Marriages and Births Have Declined Precipitously
    • Economic Profile
      • School Defines the Lives of Most Gen Z Teens and Younger Adults
      • Educational Achievement Is on the Upswing
      • Teen Employment Trends Downward
      • Summer Jobs Have Become Less Common
      • Older Teens Much More Likely to Work
      • Working Becomes Part of Life When Teen Years End
      • Employment Patterns Vary Widely by Race and Hispanic Origin
      • A Substantial Percentage of Young Adults Have Managerial or Professional Jobs
      • Level of Personal Income of Gen Z Reflects Earning Capacity
      • Gen Z Is Much More Likely to Depend on Earnings From Self-Employment
    • Overview of Shopping Habits and Spending Patterns
      • Brick-and-Mortar Shopping Still Appeals to Gen Z
      • New Stores More Likely to Appeal to 18- to 24-Year-Olds
      • Gen Z Young Adults Less Likely Than Millennials to Buy Online
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Likely to Be Sole Purchase Decision-Maker
      • Parents Are a Major Source of Teen Spending Power
      • Food and Clothing Dominate Teen Spending Priorities
      • Aggregate Income of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Totals $463 Billion
      • Expenditures of Gen Z Consumer Units Total $260 Billion
    • Highlights of Consumer Spending
      • Gen Z Young Adult Males Especially Drawn to Spending on Clothing
      • Under-25 Consumer Units Spend $9.8 Billion on Apparel
      • In-Home Entertainment Soaks Up Biggest Share of Gen Z Entertainment Expenditures
      • Gen Z Is Attached To Cellphones
      • Entertainment Choices Stand Out
      • Gen Z Likely to Continue America's Love Affair with Cars
      • Used Cars Favored by Gen Z
      • Gen Z Young Adults Far More Likely to Eat Out
    • Use of Financial Services
      • Gen Z Young Adults More Likely Than Their Millennial Predecessors to Have Bank Accounts
      • Gen Z Most Likely to Use Mobile Banking Apps but Brick-and-Mortar Branches Still Appeal
      • Many Teens Are Super Savers
      • 67% of Teens Have Access to Bank Accounts
      • Multicultural Young Adults Drive Growth in Ownership of Bank Accounts
      • Multicultural Young Adults Are a Growing Force in Ownership of Credit and Debit Cards
      • 19% of Teens Have Access to a Credit Card, 40% Have a Debit Card
      • Digital and Mobile Payments Preferred by Gen Z
    • Marketing to Gen Z
      • Instagram and Snapchat Win Out Over Facebook
      • Conventional Celebrities Lose Out to Social Media Stars
      • Brands Ramp Up Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Reach Gen Z
      • Traditional Promotional Strategies Are Less Likely to Influence Gen Z
      • Advertising in Traditional Media Still Attracts Attention from Gen Z Young Adults
      • College Market Represents a Multi-Billion Dollar Target for Brands
      • College Students Favor Twitter or Instagram
      • Old-Fashioned Direct Marketing Still Gets Results on College Campuses
      • Most Hispanic Young Adults Stay Connected to Their Heritage
      • Many Gen Z Latino Young Adults See Spanish-Language Advertising as Mark of Respect
      • African American Young Adults More Receptive to Advertising
  • Insights and Opportunities
    • Overview of Gen Z
      • Gen Z Makes an Impact
      • A Paradoxical Generation
      • Plotting a Different Course
      • A Generation of Savers and Strivers
      • Far From Monolithic
      • "A Tough Nut to Crack" for Marketers
    • Marketing Opportunities
      • Gen Z Offers a Big Payoff for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers
      • Omnichannel In-Store Systems Required to Engage Gen Z Shoppers
      • Retailers Reach Out to Gen Z With a Heightened Store Experience
      • Clothes Matter to Gen Z
      • Abercrombie & Fitch Reinvents Itself With Inclusive Gen Z Strategy
      • Brick-and-Mortar World of Gen Z Consumers Extends Beyond Retail Stores
      • Gender Fluidity of Gen Z Opens New Terrain for Marketers
      • Gen Z Represents Significant Market Segment for Consumer Electronics
      • Target Aims at Gen Z With New Consumer Electronics Brand
      • Video Games Offer Unique Marketing Platform
      • Gen Z Represents a Key Market for Restaurant Industry
      • Gen Z Young Adults Can Offer High ROI for Marketers
      • Gen Z Is Highly Receptive to Financial Services
      • Financial Education Seen as Key Tool in Establishing Relationships with Gen Z
      • Multicultural Young Adults Spark Growth in Banking Services
      • Members of Gen Z Remain Strong Prospects for Auto Industry
  • Demographic Profile
    • Population Trends
      • Population of 13- to 24-Year-Olds Reaches 52 Million
        • Table U.S. Population by Age Group/Generation, 2016 (in thousands)
      • Gen Z Is Far More Diverse Than Other Generations
        • Table U.S. Population by Age Group/Generation and Race and Hispanic Origin, 2016 (in thousands)
      • One-Third of 13- to 24-Year-Olds Live in Just Four States
        • Table States with Largest Populations of 13- to 24-Year-Olds, 2016 (in thousands)
    • Social and Political Views
      • Gender Fluidity Is a Marker of Gen Z
      • When It Comes to Gen Z's Views of Diversity, It's Complicated
      • Religious Institutions Lose Influence Among Gen Z Teens
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Politically Engaged
        • Table Partisan Affiliation and Political Orientation of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017
      • Political Profile of Gen Z Varies Across Race and Hispanic Origin
        • Table Political Orientation of 18- to 24-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017 (in thousands)
      • Young Women Are More Likely to Be Political Activists
      • Today's 18- to 24-Year-Olds Are More Environmentally Conscious
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Recycling, 2007 vs. 2017
    • Living Arrangements of Gen Z
      • Most Gen Z Teens Still Live in Family Households
        • Table Living Arrangements of 15- to 19-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017
      • 18- to 24-Year-Olds Are Now Much Less Likely to Live Independently
        • Table Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Living in Own Household vs. Households of Others, 1970 vs. 2017
      • Cohabitation Far More Common
        • Table Spouses and Cohabiting Partners as Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Living with a Partner by Gender, Selected Years 1970-2016
        • Table Characteristics of Couples in Households Headed by 15- to 24-Year-Olds (in thousands)
    • Social Indicators
      • Gen Z Teens Are Better Off Than Millennial Counterparts in a Number of Ways
        • Table Changes in School Enrollment and Labor Force Participation for 15- to 19-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2007 vs. 2016
        • Table Living Arrangements of 15- to 19-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2007 vs. 2016
      • Teen Marriages and Births Have Declined Precipitously
        • Table Changes in Marital Status for 15- to 19-Year-Old Males and Females by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2007 vs. 2016
  • Economic Profile
    • Educational Achievement
      • School Defines the Lives of Most Gen Z Teens and Younger Adults
        • Table Percent of 15- to 24-Year-Olds Enrolled in Educational Institutions by Age Group and Type of Institution, 2016
      • Educational Achievement Is on the Upswing
        • Table Educational Attainment of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017
    • Employment Trends
      • Teen Employment Trends Downward
      • Summer Jobs Have Become Less Common
      • School Gets Priority Over Work
      • Older Teens Much More Likely to Work
        • Table Employment Status of 16- to 19-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2017
      • Working Becomes Part of Life When Teen Years End
        • Table Employment Status of 16- to 24-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2017
        • Table Work Experience of 15- to 24-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2016
      • Young Adult Men More Likely to Work Full-Time
        • Table Work Experience of 18- to 24-Year-Olds by Gender, 2016
      • Employment Patterns Vary Widely by Race and Hispanic Origin
        • Table Work Experience of 15- to 24-Year-Olds by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2016
      • A Substantial Percentage of Young Adults Have Managerial or Professional Jobs
        • Table Leading Occupations of Employed 20- to 24-Year-Olds, 2017
    • Income Levels
      • Level of Personal Income of Gen Z Reflects Earning Capacity
        • Table Income of 15- to 24-Year-Olds by Age Group, 2016
      • Gen Z Is Much More Likely to Depend on Earnings From Self-Employment
      • Earnings Gender Gap Still Holds Among Young Adults in Gen Z
        • Table Earnings of 18- to 24-Year-Olds with Associate's Degree or More by Gender, 2016
  • Overview of Shopping Habits and Spending Patterns
    • Shopping Habits
      • Brick-and-Mortar Shopping Still Appeals to Gen Z
        • Table Percent Shopping at Brick-and-Mortar Stores in Last Three Months by Category of Store and by Age Group, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adults Have Positive Thoughts About Brick-and-Mortar Shopping
        • Table Attitudes Toward Shopping, 18- to 24-Year-Olds vs. All Adults, 2017
      • New Stores and Specialty Stores More Likely to Appeal to 18- to 24-Year-Olds
        • Table Importance of New Stores and Specialty Stores, 18- to 24-Year-Olds vs. All Adults, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adults Less Likely Than Millennials to Buy Online
      • Gen Z Young Adults Are More Likely to Be Sole Purchase Decision-Maker
        • Table Percent of Those Making Purchase in Last 12 Months by Category of Item Purchased, 18- to 24-Year-Olds vs. All Adults, 2017
    • Spending Patterns of Gen Z Teens
      • 15- to 17-Year-Olds Generate Significant Personal Income
        • Table Aggregate Income of 15- to 17-Year-Olds, 2016
      • Parents Remain a Significant Source of Teen Spending Power
      • Parents Spend $25 Billion on Clothing and Miscellaneous Items for Teens
        • Table Aggregate Family Spending on 15- to 17-Year-Olds for Clothing and Miscellaneous Items Including Personal Care Items, Entertainment, and Reading Materials, 2016
      • Food and Clothing Dominate Teen Spending Priorities
    • Spending Power of Gen Z Young Adults
      • Aggregate Income of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Totals $463 Billion
        • Table Aggregate Income of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2016
      • College Education Leads to Higher Incomes for Gen Z Young Adults
        • Table Earnings of 18- to 24-Year-Olds with Associate's Degree or More, 2016
        • Table Earnings of 18- to 24-Year-Olds with Associate's Degree or More by Gender, 2016
    • Overview of Gen Z Consumer Units
      • Gen Z Consumer Units Defined
      • Profile of Gen Z Consumer Units
        • Table Characteristics of Consumer Units, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, July 2016-June 2017
        • Table Characteristics of Consumer Units With Reference Person Under 25 Years of Age by Size of Consumer Unit, 2015-2016
      • Expenditures of Gen Z Consumer Units Total $260 Billion
        • Table Mean Income and Aggregate Consumer Expenditures of Consumer Units With Reference Person Under 25 Years of Age, July 2016-June 2017
        • Table Aggregate Income and Consumer Expenditures of Consumer Units With Reference Person Under 25 Years of Age by Size of Consumer Unit, 2015-2016
      • Spending Priorities of Gen Z Consumer Units Differ
        • Table Key Differences in Spending Priorities, Under-25 vs. All Households, July 2016-June 2017
  • Highlights of Consumer Spending
    • Apparel
      • Gen Z Young Adults Place High Priority on Buying Apparel
        • Table Attitudes Toward Buying Clothes by Gender and Age Group, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adult Males Especially Drawn to Spending on Clothing
        • Table Percent of Total Consumer Expenditures by Single Men and Women for Men's and Women's Clothing by Age Group, 2015-2016
      • Gen Z Women Outpace Apparel Expenditures of Older Women
      • Under-25 Consumer Units Spend $9.8 Billion on Apparel
        • Table Aggregate Expenditures by Under-25 Consumer Units for Apparel and Related Services, July 2016-June 2017 (in million $)
    • Consumer Electronics and Entertainment
      • Gen Z Allocate Below-Average Ratio of Expenditures to Entertainment
        • Table Percent of Total Consumer Expenditures Allocated to Entertainment, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, July 2016-June 2017
      • In-Home Soaks Up Biggest Share of Gen Z Entertainment Expenditures
        • Table Aggregate Expenditures by Under-25 Consumer Units for Entertainment, July 2016-June 2017 (in million $)
      • Gen Z Is Glued to Cellphones
      • Cellphones Are a Major Expense for Gen Z
      • Gen Z Lags in Ownership of PCs and Tablets
      • Gen Z Most Likely to Download Entertainment
      • Video Games Most Popular Among Gen Z
      • Movies and Live Entertainment Events Are Still Important to Gen Z
        • Table Attendance at Live Entertainment Events in Last 12 Months by Age Group, 2017
    • Automotive
      • Gen Z Likely to Continue America's Love Affair with Cars
      • Automakers Hedge Bets to Accommodate Gen Z City Dwellers
      • Used Cars Favored by Gen Z
        • Table Percent of Total Consumer Expenditures Allocated to Vehicle Purchases and Related Items by Category, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, July 2016-June 2017
        • Table Aggregate Expenditures by Under-25 Households for Vehicle Purchases and Related Items, July 2016-June 2017 (in million $)
    • Food
      • Gen Z Moves Toward Healthier Food
      • Gen Z Is More Willing to Experiment With New Foods
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Trying Out New Foods, 2007 vs. 2017
      • Eating Habits of Young Adults Have Changed Over the Past Decade
        • Table Percent of At-Home Food Expenditures Allocated to Miscellaneous Foods, Under-25 vs. All Consumer Units, 2015-2016
        • Table Percent of Households with 18- to 24-Year-Old Household Head Eating Packaged or Frozen Meals, 2017
      • Gen Z Young Adults Far More Likely to Eat Out
  • Use of Financial Services
    • Banking Services
      • Gen Z Adults More Likely Than Millennial Predecessors to Have Bank Accounts
      • Gen Z Most Likely to Use Mobile Banking Apps, but Brick-and-Mortar Still Appeals
      • Many Teens Are Super Savers
      • 67% of Teens Have Access to Bank Accounts
      • Most Gen Z Teens Are Comfortable With Traditional Banking Institutions
      • Multicultural Young Adults Drive Growth in Ownership of Bank Accounts
        • Table Ownership of Bank Accounts by Non-Hispanic White and Multicultural 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017 (in thousands)
    • Ownership and Use of Credit and Debit Cards
      • Gen Z Moves Toward Increased Ownership of Debit/ATM Cards
      • Multicultural Young Adults Are Growing Force in Credit and Debit Cards
        • Table Ownership and Use of Credit and Debit/ATM Cards by Non-Hispanic White and Multicultural 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2007 vs. 2017 (in thousands)
      • 19% of Teens Have Access to a Credit Card, 40% Have a Debit Card
      • New Credit Cards Launched to Meet Needs of Gen Z
    • Other Financial Services Trends
      • Gen Z Teens Favor Cash and Peer-to-Peer Payment Services
      • Digital and Mobile Payments Preferred by Older Members of Gen Z
      • 18- to 24-Year-Olds More Likely to Use Cash to Pay Bills
        • Table Methods and Forms of Bill Paying Used by Those Paying Their Own Bills by Age Group, 2017
  • Marketing to Gen Z
    • Overview
      • Brands Most Likely to Find Gen Z on Social Media
      • Instagram and Snapchat Win Out Over Facebook
      • Gen Z Consumes Vast Quantity of Videos on Social Media
      • Conventional Celebrities Lose Out to Social Media Stars
      • Brands Ramp Up Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Reach Gen Z
      • Gen Z Sets a High Bar for Brands
      • Traditional Promotional Strategies Are Less Likely to Influence Gen Z
      • Advertising in Traditional Media Still Attracts Attention from Gen Z Young Adults
        • Table Attitudes Toward Advertising by Age Group, 2017
    • Marketing to Gen Z College Students
      • Population of 18- to 24-Year-Old College Students Exceeds 12 Million
        • Table Number and Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Year-Olds Enrolled in Undergraduate and Graduate Institutions, October 2016 (in thousands)
        • Table Number and Percent of 18- to 24-Year-Year-Olds Enrolled Part-Time and Full-Time in Undergraduate and Graduate Institution, October 2016 (in thousands)
      • Gender Gap Remains Wide on College Campuses
      • Gen Z College Students Are Far More Diverse Than Their Millennial Predecessors
      • College Market Represents a Multi-Billion Dollar Target for Brands
      • Gen Z College Students More Likely to Use Financial Services
        • Table Use of Financial Services by 18- to 24-Year-Olds, College vs. Non-College Students, 2017
      • College Students Favor Twitter or Instagram
      • Old-Fashioned Direct Marketing Still Gets Results on College Campuses
    • Multicultural Marketing Perspectives
      • Most Hispanic Young Adults Stay Connected to Their Heritage
        • Table Place of Birth and Language Preferences of Hispanics by Age Group, 2017
        • Table Attitudes of Hispanics Toward Hispanic Heritage by Age Group, 2017
      • Many Gen Z Latino Young Adults See Spanish-Language Advertising as Mark of Respect
        • Table Attitudes of Hispanics Toward Spanish-Language Advertising by Age Group, 2017
      • African American Young Adults More Receptive to Advertising
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Advertising by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017
      • African American Young Adults Most Likely to Turn to Traditional Media
        • Table Attitudes of 18- to 24-Year-Olds Toward Traditional Media by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2017