Generation Z

By Li Jieyi and Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/15 20:03:40

Following millennials, China’s next demographic cohort share interests, struggles, with Americans

Generation Z youth from both China and the US find themselves troubled with the high expense of entertainment and hobbies. Photo: VCG

Zhang Yunyi, a 19-year-old male student in Beijing, and Conall Curran, a young American man born in 1998, are both trying to save money for their favorite pastimes, but in two totally different ways. Saving part of his pocket money every month, Zhang dreams of buying a new camera lens, which may cost about 20,000 yuan ($2,875). Curran, however, is working extra part-time jobs to cover his car expenses. He finds everything about cars interesting, including road trips.

Take a look at any social media platform in the world and you'll find millions of young people like Zhang and Curran complaining about their generation's financial pressures. Despite financial support from parents, many youth today find themselves troubled by steep tuition fees, expensive rent and other high expenses for entertainment and hobbies.

Generation Z - a term referring to those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s - are on track to becoming not only the largest group of consumers, but also the backbone of our respective economies. Thus, it is important to understand how Generation Z earn and spend money. The Metropolitan recently interviewed some young adults in Beijing and New York City who identify as Generation Z to glean some insight into this subject.

Despite financial support from their parents for tuition, rent and other daily expenses, some try to earn money through part-time jobs. Shaped by an internet-driven environment and a more inclusive world, there are also some behavioral patterns of consumption and views shared among the youths of this generation in China and the US.

For Generation Z youth born in the US and China after the year 2000, tuition and rent are naturally the biggest chunk of their daily expenses. "I'm very lucky that my parents have  the resources and are willing to support me like they do," said 20-year-old Conall Curran, who studies at a private school in Michigan.

His total tuition is about $60,000 each year, though an academic scholarship means his parents only have to pay half that amount. "It's extremely expensive as far as Michigan goes, but schools will give students some discounts based on family income and how much you deserve your scholarship," he said.

Supported by parents and government

According to data from US News, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 school year was $35,676 at private colleges, and $9,716 for state residents at public colleges,  which have seen a surge in enrollment since the late-1990s. Such is the steep cost of higher education in the US that increasing numbers of youths are choosing to study overseas at less expensive institutions - or simply skip college altogether.

In 2018, Americans are burdened by student loan debt more than ever, with 44 million borrowers owing $1.5 trillion in student loans, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, the problem is nonexistent in China. Student loans are not as common in China as in the US.

Hu Yuchen, who recently turned 18, is a vocational college student at Beijing International Studies University. Hu spends only 1,800 yuan ($259) per year on her tuition. "A vocational education is supported by the government," Hu explained to Metropolitan. Generally speaking, the tuition for Chinese students at institutions of higher education is about 5,000 yuan ($719) per year on average, according to figures published on

Many American youth do not have the time or energy to secure a part-time job, despite the financial incentives in doing so. A 22-year-old Generation Z student named Kevin Brew tried to combine studying with part-time work while attending college in New York City. He took his first job as a lifeguard during his senior high school year in his hometown of Rhode Island.

Curran noted that while it is possible for Generation Z students to get a part-time job as early as high school, he acknowledged that the pay is hardly enough for them to become independent from their parents.

According to Zhang Yunyi, whose tuition is 6,000 yuan ($863) per year, many Chinese students his age prefer to concentrate on their studies instead of work. "I choose not to work because I don't want to," said Hu. "This is the right time for me to absorb as much knowledge as I can during my school years by reading and learning."

But Zhang will be seeking an internship next year, though his primary motivation is to gather work experience in his chosen field, rather than simply earning money. "I don't think [working] means that American youth are more independent than Chinese," Zhang told Metropolitan.

Today's generation Z are being shaped more by technology than social class. Photo: VCG

Surpassing millennials

According to a 2016 survey release by an entrepreneurship lab at Zhejiang University, out of 10,000 local college students, 21 percent had part-time jobs while attending school. But with Chinese tuition fees being much lower than those in the US, neither Hu nor Zhang's family bear too much debt for their education.

"I want to be a journalist for a car magazine after graduation," said Curran, who spends at least $40 per week on gasoline alone for his road trips. Hu and Zhang likewise said that a majority of their expenses after tuition and food go toward their personal hobbies. It was in his senior year of high school, in 2016, that Zhang purchased his first digital camera lens at a price of 9,000 yuan ($1,294). "It was worth it," he said.

With Generation Z increasingly spending more money on their hobbies, the rising number of young adults suggest that this pattern of consumption is likely to continue rising. From a consumer spending point of view, new information from Bloomberg reveals that by 2019, Generation Z will comprise 32 percent of the global population (7.7 billion), surpassing millennials for the first time.

Although rent in Beijing and New York are similarly high, "the biggest difference between the two countries is that the middle class in China is growing, but in the US it is shrinking," according to Curran. In such an era, Generation Z are being shaped more by technology than social class. "To tell the truth, we are the generation who have experienced the internet from very young ages, so we are more sophisticated and inclusive than others," Hu said.




blog comments powered by Disqus