The Coronavirus pandemic and Gen Z

Malavika Santhosh, Reporter

It’s been around three months since quarantine began and the coronavirus pandemic has taken over lives. As the pandemic has shut people into their homes, overworked medical professionals, and pushed the economy into a rapid decline, the question remains: How will this crisis affect us in the future? 

While it isn’t accurate to say that everyone in a particular generation is the same, it is safe to say that people possess traits, perceptions, and opinions that remain consistent across a generation. These said similar characteristics arise out of what are called defining crises. Events that happen in our lives shape us as people, and widespread events that affect everyone shape the generation(s) living through that event. 

The baby boomers grew up in the post World War II and Great Depression Era. The New York Times talks about how this may be the reason behind the “‘me first’” apocalyptic mindset that is common among the boomer generation. The article quotes Neil Howe, author of “Generations”, who says that the boomers have “‘championed this kind of individualism. They’ve championed thinking less about the community.’” This explains the hoarding of supplies and general disregard of social distancing guidelines by boomers, which Business Insider says is one of the key differences between boomers and younger generations.

The majority of our parents, the Gen Xers grew up in a time of great social reform and change. They grew up during the Cold War and Vietnam War and witnessed the victories of civil rights movements. Gen X is also referred to as the sandwich generation, in between the post war boomer generation and the tech obsessed millennials and Gen Zers. Psychology Today says this sandwich generation is one situated in having to simultaneously take care of their parents while also caring for their children. 

Millennials grew up into a time of new technology and new problems. Many were faced with the dark realities of the world when 9/11 happened. Gun violence and the Great Recession had lasting effects on this generation. Though more diverse, educated, and technologically adept than past generations, they haven’t been lucky in terms of financial stability. Due to the events that they went through, millennials have been found to start families and households later than past generations according to Pew Research Center. Investopedia also notes that Gen X and millennials aren’t meeting the consumption patterns of past generations, with them putting their savings into retirement rather than investing.

Generation Z, usually defined as the people born from 1997 to 2012, were born right into the digital age. We’re growing up in an age of rapidly advancing technology and increasing awareness of environmental and social issues. According to Pew Social Trends we are set to be the most diverse, educated, and accepting generation yet. They also say that we were “in line to inherit a strong economy with record-low unemployment” but the pandemic has completely changed the country’s economic, political, and social landscape. So what does this mean for us? 

Many of us are at the cusp of adulthood, preparing ourselves for the end of our high school careers and plans afterward. The pandemic has caused us to hit pause on all those plans, and many of us are stuck in a limbo between highschool and beyond. We’re juggling jobs, school and family during this uncertain time. Many of us are rethinking our futures. 

As with any major economic downturn in history, the economic decline will have lasting impacts. According to Pew Research Center, many of us are likely to be working in industries that have been shut down due to social distancing guidelines. CNN Business says that the pandemic will affect future jobs and pay prospects for Gen Z in the long term. Business Insider says that many of us could graduate into a recession, opening up the possibility that we will end up like the financially struggling millennials. Recent economic events could also impact our views concerning money and spending habits. It is likely that Gen Z will be even more risk averse with their money than Gen X and millennials.

Gen Z is known to be more social-justice oriented, reports Business Insider. Gen Z feels fed up with the status quo, with problems like racial injustice, gun violence, and climate change among other things being issues we deal with daily. Many in our generation are using social media to build platforms to speak up and stand for social, political, and environmental issues they care about. The pandemic seems to have magnified many of these disparities and it might prove to be the breaking point. The Washington Post says that the coronavirus crisis might “solidify [our] political identity” and how some Gen Zers are seeing the pandemic as validation for their ideas concerning government. Pew Research Center finds that Gen Z thinks there is a bigger role for the government and that the government needs to do more to solve problems. The pandemic might just cement Gen Z’s support of government programs involvement.

The pandemic will and has affected everyone in so many ways, but as of now it looks like Gen Z’s defining crisis. We will be forever affected by the pandemic and its aftermath. If anything is true, it will be that it is going to be interesting to see how this unfolds and how we as a generation go about our lives after this.

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