Young people today display remarkable maturity under economic stress.
Thanks for this thoughtful and clear response to the earlier essay about Generation Z. I read that earlier analysis and was bothered by it, but couldn't have responded as astutely as you did. As the mother of 2 Gen Z'ers I can say I agree with you completely about the impact of economics on their decisions. For example, my daughter, who is a professional architect, has lived independently (both with a partner and alone) ever since obtaining her first professional job. She could afford to live in San Francisco and Seattle, two of the most expensive cities in the US. My son, on the other hand, is an artist, and makes way below minimum wage. He lives at home only because he cannot afford the alternatives. He also doesn't drive because he can't afford a car, and insurance, etc. and would rather use public transportation anyway. Neither of them drinks heavily because of alcoholism in their families of origin, and the destruction they have seen it cause in peoples' lives. I have always taught them this is a wise decision. What's wrong with it? Same with consensual sex. What's wrong with that? My children are both independent people, independent thinkers, and they live their life the best they can with all the economic constraints on them. I just think that the conclusions of the earlier article were way off base. Thanks for setting the record straight with an alternative interpretation.
Thank you for an excellent refutation of some popular gripes about Gen Z. I would add one thing. Until the past several decades, multigenerational households were normal, even normative, in the West, and they still are in many parts of the world. The idea that leaving ones natal home is a natural part of maturation misreads much of human history and culture. I'm more likely to believe that it's Boomers like me who grew up during a cultural anomaly, and that it's my generation that warrants scrutiny for its odd ideas about what is or isn't a 'normal' human life.
"many of the “aversions” being described here are not the result of coddling or puritanism, but are to a large extent adaptations in the face of economic trends."
Nope. There are many jobs out there that Boomers did at their age, but Zoomers will not do. They have been told they are special and can change the world so they reject jobs that don't make them feel special and that they are changing the world. They also have life-style expectations that set the bar WAY higher than Boomers expected at their age. Just consider the money spent on hair-styling in the photo image used and compare that to old photos of Boomers at their age.
"Second, regardless of the underlying causes, a great number of these abstinences should be applauded, not condemned. They represent major improvements in the quality and length of people’s lives: the fruits of a more conscientious generation and a sign of true maturity and adulthood."
This might be a valid point if the kids were not just replacing one potential addictive or negative activity with others. Their addiction to social media and social media feedback. Cannabis consumption. Political rage. Video games., etc.
I'm open to your argument about housing and cars.
With sex I think you are on shakier ground. People have always lived with their parents for high school unless they go to boarding school or have some other, less common, unconventional situation.
Also, I would push back on two things. One, she refers to fear of rape. That may or may not be causing a drop in sexual activity among women, but it is not exactly the same thing as "taking consent seriously."
And as that, I think this is where the conversation has been a disaster in the me too era and the article you link to illustrates why. The old "no means no" standard was far more clear than the new one. Affirmative consent sounds nice until you attempt to define it. From the article:
"The high school students defined consent as active verbal agreement, but reported that, in practice, consent was often conveyed passively. Gender differences emerged in this population as well; girls were more likely to say that they conveyed refusal through nonverbal cues, while boys consistently reported that they waited for girls’ verbal refusals before discontinuing their advances."
So unless you have people verbally consenting to every little thing that happens, which SNL satirized thirty years ago when this shit first came to the general public's attention, then we are in the realm of "nonverbal cues" which no two people seem to be able to interpret the same way. Not an improvement in taking consent seriously! I don't see how anyone can in good conscious declare that someone has committed a serious felony based on supposedly misreading some subtle nonverbal cue. It's completely preposterous, and more people should be willing to say so.
As a member of Generation Z myself, I believe the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. In general, we are dealing with a few different things which produce the sharp generational differences often observed- first, the economic situation, particularly in the land & housing market, that makes pursuing the traditional American dream untenable for most- producing both risk-aversion and also cynicism and dissatisfaction with existing systems. Second, the Internet, leading to a dramatic change in social norms and mores that in general leaves young people more anxious and depressed and far less socially capable. Third, a collapse in the capacity of social institutions built for a far more energetic and self-confident Cold War America, leading to anomie and social anxiety mixed with moral panic as the US is undergoing a dramatic shift in American public values. GenZers as a whole are conscientious, but unresilient and with a deep distrust of institutions which have mostly served us poorly.
It is possible that as a Baby Boomer, I am missing the issue entirely. However, in what universe is a decline in adolescent risk behaviors - as defined in the source article - considered to be a bad trend? Adolescence by definition is the transitional period between childhood and adulthood. How would risky behaviors ease that transition? If engaging in risky behaviors eased the transition to adulthood, then we Baby Boomers would be the most "adult" generation ever - probably not the case.
Perhaps, we should be looking at challenging behaviors instead of risky behaviors. For example, how willing are Zoomers to learn new skills outside of their self-identified interest areas? How willing are Zoomers to try new physical activities? How willing are Zoomers to meet new people?
The argument here seems to be mostly about how expensive things are and how responsible this generation is with its money. That may all be true, but one has to also consider the place that having money takes in their values. Looking at the recent WSJ poll (https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-pull-back-from-values-that-once-defined-u-s-wsj-norc-poll-finds-df8534cd), basically interest in everything is down, except money, which is up. Is that your defense?
It's also worth asking how many are living at home like the artist mentioned in an earlier comment, who doesn't earn enough (yet) for rent. I don't know him and have no interest in casting aspersions, but if there are large numbers of Gen-Zers living at home because their chosen vocation doesn't earn them enough to be independent, that probably says something about them in general.