What the Statistics Say About Generation Z
Featuring New Gen Z Population and Poverty Data
What the Statistics Say About Generation Z
Meet Generation Z. Born between 1997 and 2012, they are “racially and ethnically diverse, progressive and pro-government” according to Pew Research Center. They’re also sandwiched between millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 — and Generation Alpha, which is adding members through 2025.
Called Generation Z or “zoomers,” spanning ages 10 to 26 as of 2023, the young adult members of this group have become a powerful force in recent elections — and with 8.3 million Gen Zers turning 18 since the November 2000 election, all signs indicate that their strength will continue to grow. Some estimates have predicted that Gen Z will make up 17% of eligible voters in 2024 and 35% in 2036.
This post explores how life has changed over the last two decades for Generation Z. It highlights key statistics from 2000 to 2022, largely based on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Center.
Gen Z Population, Demographics and Diversity Statistics
The Gen Z population includes nearly 70 million young people as of 2022, up from 57 million in 2010.
The KIDS COUNT Data Center provides population data for Generation Z and other generations from 2010 to 2022. While Gen Z grew steadily during this period, millennials were consistently greater in number, at 72.2 million in 2022, the largest of all generations that year.
At the state level, California is home to the largest number of Gen Zers, with about 8.2 million, followed by Texas with approximately 6.9 million. Wyoming and Vermont have the fewest zoomers, with over 124,000 and 128,000, respectively.
Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than older generations.
About half of Gen Zers are white (51%), while one-fourth (25%) are Latino or Hispanic, 15% are Black, 6% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 5% have two or more races and 2% are American Indian or Alaska Native.
By contrast, a greater share of millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers are white: 55%, 60% and 72%, respectively. Gen Alpha, on the other hand, is on track to be the most diverse generation yet, as just under half (48%) are white.
Generation Z also became slightly more diverse between 2010 and 2022, with the share of white Gen Zers decreasing by two percentage points and the share of Asians and Pacific Islanders and Latinos each increasing by one percentage point.
Zoomers increasingly represent immigrant families.
Kids under age 18 in immigrant families — meaning either the child is foreign-born or lives with at least one foreign-born parent — grew more common as Gen Zers grew up over the past two decades, jumping from 19% of the country’s total child population in 2000 to 25% in 2021. The vast majority (90%) of these children are U.S. citizens.
Among youth and young adults ages 14 to 24 in 2017–2021, capturing many older Gen Zers, more than 1 in 5 (22%) were immigrants or lived in immigrant families, the same as previous years.
Generation Z and Poverty: Have They Grown Up Poor?
At peak poverty rates in 2011 and 2012, almost 1 in 4 Gen Zers lived in poverty.
Gen Z has experienced exceptionally high poverty rates — greater than those of millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers during 2010 to 2021 (the years available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center). The share of zoomers living in poverty reached a peak of 23% in 2011 and 2012, then steadily fell to 17% — about 11.3 million young people — by 2021. Poverty rates for Gen Alpha have been the highest of all generations, starting at 25% in 2013 and dipping to 18% (about 6.1 million kids) in 2021.
Overall child poverty rates for kids under age 18 between 2000 and 2022 generally mirrored those of Gen Z, summiting at 23% in 2011 and 2012, then dropping to 16% by 2022.
In 2012, Gen Zers were still growing up, and nearly half — almost 30 million — were low-income.
In 2011 and 2012, Gen Zers were ages 0 to 15, and 46% lived in low-income families, meaning their income was less than 200% of the federal poverty level. A decade later in 2021, the share of low-income Gen Zers fell to 36% or about 23.8 million.
In 2021, 200% of the federal poverty level for a family of two adults and two children was $54,958.
During 2010 to 2021, a larger share of zoomers lived in low-income households than millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers. However, since Gen Alpha started in 2013, a greater percentage of this generation has lived in low-income families than all other generations.
In which states are Gen Zers most likely to be poor?
Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico have the highest rates of Gen Zers living in poverty and in low-income families, according to 2021 data. Specifically:
- Half of Gen Zers in New Mexico (50%) and almost half in Louisiana (47%) and Mississippi (47%) live in low-income families, the highest percentages of all states. However, in New Hampshire, just one-fifth (20%) live in low-income families, the lowest share of any state.
- Gen Zers in the southern, central region of the country are the most likely to live in low-income households. More than 4 in 10 zoomers in this region are considered low-income.
- One in 4 zoomers are living in poverty in Mississippi (25%) and Louisiana (25%), and nearly 1 in 4 (23%) live in poverty in New Mexico. Here again, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate for this group, at 9%.
A majority of Black, Latino and American Indian or Alaska Native Gen Zers are low-income.
For Generation Z — and all other generations — Black Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives and Latino Americans disproportionately live in low-income households. According to the latest data by race and ethnicity, more than half of Black (56%), American Indian (56%) and Latino (52%) zoomers were living in low-income families in 2016–2020, well above the national average of 39% and figures for those with two or more races (38%), Asians and Pacific Islanders (31%) and white Gen Zers (28%).
Similar disparities hold true when looking at a different measure of low-income young people ages 14 to 24 in 2015–2019, which showed that about half (49%) of Latinos were living in low-income families, and the same was true for more than half of Black (53%) and American Indian or Alaska Native (54%) young people. This is compared to 39% or less for their Asian and Pacific Islander peers, those with two or more races and white youth and young adults.
While poverty rates have improved for Black, Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native Gen Zers, these groups are still most likely to live in poverty.
For many decades, poverty rates have been disproportionately high for people of color regardless of age. Although poverty rates have dropped substantially for Black, American Indian and Latino zoomers since peak levels in 2009–2013, these racial and ethnic groups continue to be the most likely to live in poverty, based on available data. For instance, according to 2016–2020 data, 29% of both Black and American Indian or Alaska Native Gen Zers, and 24% of Latinos were living in poverty, compared to 12% of white, 14% of Asian or Pacific Islander and 17% of those with two or more races.
These and other data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center illustrate that Gen Z children and families of color — as well as the generations before and after them — consistently have inadequate opportunities to thrive, resulting from long-standing, structural inequities in society.
Education Stats: Positive News for Zoomers
When the oldest Gen Zers reached eighth grade around 2011, the percentage of U.S. eighth graders scoring proficient in math hit its highest level since 2000: 34%.
While Generation Z made its way through the school system over the last couple decades, several bellwether education indicators improved, such as fourth grade reading and eighth grade math achievement levels. The oldest members of Gen Z reached eighth grade in 2010 or 2011. The share of eighth grade students scoring proficient or better in math rose to a high of 34% in 2011, up from 25% in 2000. The figure remained fairly steady between 2011 and 2019 and then plunged to 26% in 2022.
When the oldest zoomers reached ages 16 to 19, only 4% of teens in this age group were out of school and lacking a high school diploma.
From 2013 to 2021, as more and more Gen Zers entered adolescence and young adulthood, the percentage of youth ages 16 to 19 who were not in school and did not complete high school remained even at 4%, substantially lower than the 11% in 2000.
In addition, the share of high school students not graduating on time also improved from 18% to 14% between 2013 and 2020 (the most recent data available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center).
As Gen Zers reached college age, nearly half of young adults were enrolling in or completing college.
The share of young adults ages 18 to 24 who were enrolled in or finished with college has held steady at just under 50% ever since Gen Zers reached age 18 in 2015. This figure is a marked improvement from 36% in 2000.
When the last of Generation Z was born in 2012, the share of births to mothers with less than a high school diploma had fallen to 17%.
Gen Z parents have become increasingly educated, too. The share of births to moms with less than 12 years of education began declining after 2006, from a high of 26%, down to 17% in 2012. This trend continued for the next generation, Gen Alpha, with the figure dropping to 11% as of 2021.
Pregnancy, Parenting and Foster Care
As Gen Z kids grew up, their chances of going into foster care went down.
The likelihood of children, birth to age 17, being in foster care dipped from 8 to 5 in every 1,000 kids between 2000 and 2021. The U.S. foster care system is meant to provide safe, temporary living arrangements and support services for children who have been removed from their families due to maltreatment, lack of safety or inadequate care. However, some kids never leave foster care and “age out” of the system, lacking adequate support to thrive as young adults on their own. In addition, children of color are overrepresented in foster care and more likely to experience poor outcomes.
Teen births dropped with Generation Z — going from 48 births per 1,000 Millennial teens ages 15 to 19 in 2000 to just 14 per 1,000 Gen Z teens 15 to 19 in 2021. The share of young adults ages 18 to 24 who are parents also has been declining nationwide, and fell from 10% in 2009–2013 to 6% in 2016–2020.
While efforts to reduce teen births and unplanned pregnancy among young adults have worked in recent decades, the nation still has millions of young parents who need support navigating common challenges, such as financial and housing instability, interrupted education, employment obstacles, parenting stress, health issues and access to quality child care and health care.
The share of Gen Zers born to unmarried women increased from 32% to 41%.
At the start of Generation Z in 1997, nearly one-third (32%) of births were to unmarried women. That figure jumped to 41% by 2012, the last year that Gen Zers were born. As of 2021, it was still holding at 40%.
Given that statistic, it may not be surprising that children living in single-parent families grew more common, too, over the past two decades, rising from 31% in 2000 to 34% in 2021.
Kids of single parents, especially single moms, are more likely to experience poverty and its serious consequences, including physical, mental and behavioral health problems, poor academic outcomes and other potentially lifelong challenges.
Mental Health and Health Insurance Access: Gen Z Young Adults, in Particular, Need Support
Nearly 1 in 5 young adult Gen Zers lacked health insurance as of fall 2022.
As members of Generation Z have grown up, the share of children without health care coverage has been reduced by half, from 10% of kids under age 18 lacking insurance in 2008 (the earliest year on the KIDS COUNT Data Center) to just 5% in 2022. Still, this leaves nearly 4 million children without health care coverage.
When we include older members of Gen Z, the picture gets worse, with approximately 11% of youth and young adults ages 14 to 24 without health insurance in 2017–2021. Further, a recent survey of young adults 18 to 24 found that nearly one in five (17%) did not have coverage as of fall 2022.
Obtaining and maintaining quality health insurance is critical in order to address physical and mental health needs.
More than 1 in 4 Gen Z members report mental health struggles.
Gen Zers are “significantly more likely (27%) than other generations, including millennials (15%) and Gen Xers (13%), to report their mental health as fair or poor,” according to the American Psychological Association. The KIDS COUNT Data Center backs this up with multiple measures related to depression and anxiety spanning children, youth and young adults, including Gen Zers, showing a troubling rise in mental health issues. For example:
- In 2016, when Gen Zers were ages 4 to 19, an estimated 9% of U.S. children and teens ages 3 to 17 had anxiety or depression. This figure jumped to 12% — about 7.3 million kids — by 2020.
- The percentage of high school students reporting persistent sadness or hopelessness spiked from 29% in 2011 to 37% in 2019. Older members of Gen Z were high school-age during this timeframe.
Youth of color and LGBTQ young people face increased risks of suicide and lack of access to care.
One-third of Gen Z young adults felt persistent hopeless, depressed feelings in 2022.
According to a recent Census Bureau survey, 33% of Gen Z young adults 18 to 24 reported persistent depressed, down or hopeless feelings in the fall of 2022, similar to results over the previous year.
Access to mental health care remains a serious problem for many people, as well. In 2021, for instance, only 45% of young adults ages 18 to 25 with any mental illness received treatment.
Gen Z and Technology: Their Comfort Zone
While nearly all (95%) Gen Z teens ages 13 to 17 have access to smartphones, low-income teens are less likely to have computers.
According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (capturing a slice of Gen Z youth who currently range from ages 10 to 26), teen smartphone access does not differ greatly for lower- and higher-income households: 93% versus 96%, respectively. However, 94% of teens in households earning over $75,000 a year have access to computers, compared to 79% of teens from low-income households making less than $30,000 a year.
Access to computers and laptops at home, along with high-speed internet, is increasingly essential for academic success, parental employment, health care and other important family needs.
Close to half of Gen Z teens report being online almost constantly.
According to the same 2022 survey of teens 13 to 17, an increasing share of youth say that they’re online almost constantly: 46% in 2022, nearly twice the 24% reported in 2014–15. Of course, with Gen Z being born after 1996, and growing up with the internet, computers, mobile devices, cell service and the near-constant ability to be connected, living life online has essentially been assumed.
YouTube is by far the most popular online social media platform among teens ages 13 to 17 in 2022, used by 95%, followed by TikTok, used by 67%. Among the five most frequently used platforms — YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook — more than one-third (35%) of teens said they use one or more of these platforms almost constantly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Generation Z
How many Gen Zers are there in the United States?
It is estimated that Generation Z includes nearly 70 million young people.
What percentage of the population is Gen Z?
About 20%, with the same for Gen X (19.9%), and a bit more for millennials and baby boomers (both 22%), according to a Brookings Institution analysis in 2020.
What is the year range for Gen Z versus other generations?
- Gen Alpha: 2013 to 2025
- Gen Z: 1997 to 2012
- Millennials: 1981 to 1996
- Gen X: 1965 to 1980
- Baby boomers: 1946 to 1964
How old are Gen Zers?
In 2023, they spanned ages 10 to 26.
How many Gen Zers will be eligible to vote in November 2024?
Generation Z will comprise 17% of all eligible voters in 2024, according to the States of Change: Demographics and Democracy project.
What are the values of Generation Z?
Is Gen Z the poorest generation?
Gen Z has experienced higher poverty rates than millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers, according to the KIDS COUNT Data Center, but Gen Alpha is the poorest generation to date. Similarly, a greater share of Gen Zers live in low-income families compared to older generations, but a slightly smaller share of Gen Zers are low-income compared to members of Gen Alpha.
Learn More About Generation Z
See the KIDS COUNT Data Center’s new Gen Z indicators listed below, as well as a new dataset on youth and young adults ages 14 to 24, capturing many older Gen Zers.
New KIDS COUNT Data Center indicators on Gen Z and other generations:
- Population size by Gen Alpha, Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and baby boomers, by race and ethnicity
- People living in poverty by generation
- People living in poverty by generation and race and ethnicity
- People living in low-income households by generation
- People living in low-income households by generation and race and ethnicity
- Generation Z and Mental Health
- Core Characteristics of Generation Z
- Social Issues Important to Generation Z
- Generation Z and Education
- What Is Generation Alpha?