Headlines everywhere proclaim Generation Z to be the most diverse in history. This is predominately due to the fact that racial minorities make up 48% of this generation, up from comprising 39% of the Millennial Generation. When viewing this bit of data, it is inarguable that Generation Z is in fact the most diverse generation, at least in regards to racial makeup. However, when taking a deeper look, interesting–and sometimes contrary–insights emerge.
On the subject of racial diversity, going back at least to Baby boomers, each U.S. generation has seen an increase in racial minority representation over its predecessor. When analyzing the percent increase of racial minorities from one generation to the next, some striking observations emerge. For the Early Boomers generation in 1968, racial minorities only made up 18% of the total population. By the midst of Generation X in 1986, that figure had increased to 30% of the population. That’s a 67% increase in racial minority representation in a single generation! The social and cultural impact of such a significant change in such a short amount of time was staggering. By 2002, racial minorities made up 39% of the Millennial Generation, a 30% increase over Generation X.
How does Generation Z stack up to the above numbers? They experienced a 23% increase in racial minority representation, the lowest increase recorded. Now, as minority groups grow, it is to be expected that the percent of increase will decrease. That’s simple math. However, the point is that the adjustment from one generation to the next, in regards to connecting with a new generational audience with a shifting racial makeup, is the smallest we have seen. Headlines are filling the internet heralding Generation Z as the most diverse ever, encouraging marketers to focus on this element as if the change was more significant than in previous generations. The opposite is actually true.
Headlines could just as easily proclaim Generation Z as the generation with the smallest percent of increase in racial diversity. Either headline would be correct, however, they appear to denote contrary ideas. The media has chosen to promote the record-breaking level of racial diversity of Generation Z, without noting how the generation-over-generation change in racial diversity is the smallest percentage on record. In other words, from an ethnic marketing perspective, there is less of an adjustment transitioning from the Millennial Generation to Generation Z than what we witnessed in previous generations. It’s important not to allow media framing to lead you to put more focus on one particular element, in this case an increase in racial diversity, than the actual numbers support. Yes, Generation Z is very racially diverse, but so was the Millennial Generation, and the difference between the two groups represents a smaller gap than we’ve seen between previous succeeding generations.
Of course, racial makeup is just one component of diversity. See part two of this blog series for a deeper look into other factors relevant to Generation Z in comparison to past generations.