In the year 2030, the majority of Gen Z will be in their 20’s and 30’s and likely considering family, career, and what it means to be a full-fledged adult. It’s also at this point that their economic power as a consumer group will begin to be fully realized.

Engagement marketing firm Fuse recently released new research based on a survey of 2,000 13-17-year-olds, examining their expectations of 2030.

Consumers of 2030: Ten Gen Z expectations that forecast the spenders of the future

Education: More young people are planning on going to college than ever before

While many believe the so-called “crisis” of higher education has been exaggerated, there is no doubt that colleges and universities are undergoing dramatic change as young people are prioritizing career outcomes and how to mitigate student debt when choosing a college.

In the most recent year for which statistics are available (2016), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that about 69 percent of students who graduated high school in 2016 were enrolled in college that same year. Compare that to our latest survey that indicates 77 percent of current high school students intend to enroll in college. That number would drive college enrollment past its all-time high (in 2010) of more 21 million students.

There is more good news for 4-year colleges and universities; in 2016, about half of that enrollment was in 2-year community colleges, but in our study, 60 percent of today’s students intend to go to a 4-year school (with only about 18 percent saying they are planning on a community college).

Careers: Young people will fill the jobs in some growing industries, but leave others lacking qualified candidates

The data we collected around the anticipated careers of current high school students is complex, particularly when compared to the current U.S. workforce. Three industries stood out:

  • Healthcare: According to the US Department of Labor, healthcare is the largest industry in the US at about 12.5 percent of the total workforce. Sixteen percent of teens plan to make a career in healthcare. As the U.S. population grows older (according to a 2018  U.S. Census Bureau report, in 2035 there will be 78 million people 65 years and older), there will be a need for the healthcare workforce to grow, and Gen Z appears situated to meet that demand.
  • Nonprofits: Given Gen Z’s enthusiasm and activism on social issues (more on that below), we expected far more than 1 percent of teens to indicate their intent to pursue a nonprofit career. Nonprofits account for about 10 percent of the total workforce, so the industry appears to have its work cut out for it in persuading Gen Z to pursue a career in nonprofit work.
  • Entrepreneurship: In 2018, a study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and Babson College and Baruch College found that 27 million working-age Americans—nearly 14 percent of the workforce—were starting or running new businesses. It was a record high for this study, but falls far below the 24 percent of our teen respondents who say they plan to become entrepreneurs.

Income: Fewer teens expect to earn middle income wages

Using U.S. Census and Pew Research Center data of lower, middle, and upper household income levels, researchers asked teens what they expected their household income to be in ten years. For context, according to Pew’s 2018 study, 52 percent of adults lived in middle-income households, 29 percent in lower-income households and 19 percent in upper-income households. So, what does Gen Z expect to be earning in ten years?

  • 26 percent said they expect to be earning a salary equal to today’s lower-income household
  • 49 percent said they expect to be earning a salary equal to today’s middle-income household
  • 25 percent said they expect to be earning a salary equal to today’s upper-income household

The raw numbers are not substantially different than today’s actual income levels. In other words, Gen Z expects their future economic circumstances to be similar to their current household income.

Social Issues: Teens show a unified voice around a singular issue in 2030

Understanding the social issues that are most important to teens provides insight into today’s youth culture and indicates areas for brands to focus their cause marketing. In Fuse’s social activism study about a year ago, 68 percent of teens said companies had an obligation to solve social issues.

In 2018, ranked in order, the top 5 key social concerns of teens were education, jobs and unemployment, prejudice and racism, the environment, and terrorism. Because our study this month focused on expectations about 2030, and not their concerns today, we anticipated a few differences. Ranked in order, teens believe that the main social issues in 2030 will be:

  • Climate change (41 percent)
  • Gun Violence (22 percent)
  • Race (14 percent)
  • Immigration (11 percent)
  • Income Inequality (7 percent)

Immigration makes its first appearance on this list, while education drops off for the first time. But the biggest surprise might be climate change—with teens more unified and galvanized around a single issue than ever before.

Tech: Wearable tech seems poised to break through to young consumers

From laptops to gaming consoles, tech is a central part of nearly every aspect of Gen Z’s lives. When it comes to tech teens “use every day,” smartphones are the dominant device with nearly 95 percent saying they have a smartphone or access to one. What tech does Gen Z think they will be using every day ten years from now?

Nearly 90 percent say that the smartphone will still be the most important daily-use device. But one-third of teens say that wearable tech will be critical to them by 2030. This is a bit of a surprise, because despite the mass media buzz about wearables, teens have been slow to adopt it. Last year only 2 percent said wearable tech was their favorite kind of technology. The new study supports the findings in a  new report  published by GlobalData that says the wearable tech market will increase at a rate of 19 percent in the coming years.

Young people expect to be using the following technology every day by 2030:

  • Mobile Phone or Tablet (88 percent)
  • Desktop or Laptop Computer (58 percent)
  • Wearable Technology (33 percent)

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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