Generations have distinct personality traits and civil mindsets. Though the phenomenon of “generational trends” takes time to incubate and evolve, it’s very clear that disruptive events which happen during the “coming of age” years of a young person’s life — say between ages 12 and 24 – are the accelerators of new trends, and thus, social change.
Millennials, currently the largest generation in American history, have been dubbed the “unluckiest” because they’ve had to endure multiple disruptive events, the most significant perhaps being income stagnation capped by an economic collapse. Though a lot less is written about the Plurals (Generation Z) these young people have likewise been affected by America’s youth-unemployment crisis. According to the Center For American Progress, the unemployment rate among Americans ages 16 to 24 is more than twice the unemployment rate for people of all ages.
That said, America’s decade-long role in overseas conflicts has also weighed heavily on these two generations. In 2005, “Homelanders” was coined as a descriptive term for Generation Z by Neil Howe enthusiasts because of the long shadow 9/11 would cast in the form of war. Indeed, over these last 12 years, the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns (taken together) have been the most expensive war in U.S. history – totaling somewhere between $4-trillion and $6-trillion. Undoubtedly, American teens have been impacted.
Beyond the negative fallout of these economic events, one has to consider the impact of events characterized as homeland violence (2007: Virginia Tech Shooting, 2009: Fort Hood Shooting, 2011: Tuscon Shooting, 2012: Aurora Shooting, 2012: Sandy Hook Shooting) and natural disasters (2005: Hurricane Katrina, 2010: Haiti Earthquake, 2011: Japanese Tsunami + Nuclear Crisis, 2012: Hurricane Sandy).
Study after study shows humans are heavily influenced by what they observe happening in the world around them, even if what they observed didn’t happen directly to them. Since social media provides such an explosive and media-rich way to share important moments, it accelerates the wide-spread significance of any one event, inviting homogeneity. Here in America, 41 million American youth (ages 15-to-24) have been using the internet for at least five years, which means their experiences are more synonymous than previous generations.
In a poignant article by USA Today entitled From 9/11 To Newton, Millennial Generation Resilient, the author explores why there is a defiant determination in American teens to help themselves and others despite the barrage of uncertainty and violence which has propagated their young lives.
“Profoundly affected yet not paralyzed by events of their times, these 13-to-17 year olds — almost to a person — describe a mission to burnish the nation’s image to the luster often described by their parents. We as a country can be better, they say. We will be better.”
Thus, what we’re seeing is an emerging positive trend in youth confidence – both in themselves as well as their peers. This positivity and self-confidence lays the foundation for a generation of (social) entrepreneurs.
Being that entrepreneurship is among the most important forces in a modern economy, much money and resources have been poured into understanding its virility. Most recently, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation issued a study entitled: Getting The Bug: Is (Growth) Entrepreneurship Contagious? The purpose of the study was to answer one important question: If entrepreneurship is imitative to any meaningful degree, what do we know about the likelihood of the average American to be exposed to entrepreneurs who they might imitate?
Though the study embraced all age groups, one important finding noted that younger respondents had an edge over older age groups in knowing growth entrepreneurs. Since Millennials are snubbing the corporate world for entrepreneurship and promoting their successes across social networks, this trend is trickling down to their younger cohorts. According to a recent Gallup poll, 43% of students surveyed plan to start their own businesses. More importantly, as the Cassandra Report adeptly writes: American tweens and teens are always seeking “new opportunities to display their most inventive, beautiful and brilliant creations.”
With their fluency in technology, youth are particularly excelling in the digital creation space. For example, Millennials and Plurals are by far the largest media contributors and consumers of the hundreds of hours worth of video that is uploaded to YouTube EVERY MINUTE. Technology, in fact, has put so many professional opportunities in front of youth, it’s accelerating this entrepreneurial trend and their creativity is ultimately becoming their new wealth-creation tool and calling card.
So while the concept that generational trends are forged at the intersection of historical moments and phase of life, opportunity to have impact at younger ages in conjunction with those events is a new shift in the phenomenon of generational trends.
Itching to make impact, Plurals are self-starters who have more “creative currency” to leverage than any other youth-group that came before them. Thus in their pursuit of happiness, Plurals will also be very likely to pursue (social) entrepreneurship.