The youngest generation in the U.S. is entering adulthood as the country's most racially and ethnically diverse generation and is on its way to becoming the best educated generation yet, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday.
While there is no agreement so far on what to call these young people born after 1996 — some say Generation Z, others iGen — researchers say there are demographic trends that separate them from millennials, who were once also heralded for their broad racial and ethnic makeup.
The researchers analyzed post-millennials who are currently between the ages of 6 and 21. They found nearly half — 48 percent — are from communities of color.
A "bare majority," the report notes, of 52 percent are non-Hispanic white, compared to 61 percent of millennials in 2002 when they were in the same age range.
"There's much more Hispanic and Asian presence among the nation's children and youth today," says Richard Fry, a senior research at Pew who co-authored the report with Kim Parker.
They were part of a team that analyzed data from the Census Bureau to produce Pew's first-ever report focused on the post-millennial generation.
The report also found fewer immigrants among the post-millennial generation. "They reflect sort of the reduced immigration flows following the Great Recession," Fry says.
The older group of post-millennials appear to be better educated than previous generations. Researchers say that's driven in part by more young Latinos born in the U.S. instead of abroad.
U.S.-born Latinos between the ages of 18 and 20 and no longer in high school are more likely than their counterparts born outside the U.S. to be enrolled in college, the researchers found.
Older post-millennials, Fry says, are less likely to drop out of high school compared to millennials when they were the same age. "They're more likely to finish high school," he says, "And of those who aren't enrolled in high school, they're more likely to be in college."
The researchers warn, though, that these trends may not last.
"It's important to point out that future immigration patterns may affect the educational outcomes of post-Millennials," their report notes, "so these generational comparisons represent a current snapshot."
Fry also points out that many younger post-millennials are still working through elementary and middle schools, and their educational paths could shift the generation's ultimate trajectory.
For now, though, Yasmin Butt, 21, of Staten Island, N.Y., is among those Latino college students helping post-millennials meet their educational benchmarks.
A senior at Columbia University studying psychology and women's, gender and sexuality studies, Butt was raised by her mother, who was born in Chile, in a family with two younger post-millennial sisters. Her middle sister is also enrolled in college, and the younger one is applying to schools as a high school senior.
Her mother, she says, "would tell us that she won't be able to die happy and in peace if her daughters don't go to college and become something big and great."
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now that the oldest millennials are approaching 40, it's time to figure out what the next generation is all about. And today the Pew Research Center has a report on post-millennials. It says they're more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has more.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Some call them Generation Z, but not 20-year-old Karla Reyes Diaz. She's a student at Barnard College. And she says she's generally identified with millennials like me. That's until we start talking about social media.
I got Facebook right when I was entering college. But for you...
KARLA REYES DIAZ: I've had it since, like, elementary school.
WANG: And then you moved on, right? Like, Facebook and then...
REYES DIAZ: Yeah, Facebook is, like, for family albums.
WANG: The Pew Research Center says there are other differences between millennials and post-millennials. The younger generation is more likely to be Latino or Asian. Reyes Diaz says she's noticed this trend among younger Latinx students at Columbia University who she says are, quote, "more authentic."
REYES DIAZ: When I first got to Columbia, I thought, oh, my God, I have to speak a certain way, and I can't do this and that. But I see these kids, and they're here blaring their music and wearing their clothes just like if they were in the Bronx. And it makes me so happy.
WANG: The Pew Research Center's new report was co-written by Richard Fry. The researchers analyzed Census Bureau data. Pew found that the Great Recession is a big break between the millennial generation and the following one.
RICHARD FRY: There was a large falloff in employment opportunities, and immigration to the U.S. sort of peaked. The flows peaked in 2005. And so when there was fewer immigrants coming to the U.S., there was also fewer immigrant children.
WANG: That's helping post-millennials hit educational benchmarks. Young Latinos born in the U.S. are more likely than those born abroad to go further in their schooling. Fry says that's true overall for post-millennials.
FRY: They're less likely to drop out of high school. They're more likely to finish high school. And of those who aren't enrolled in high school, they're more likely to be in college.
WANG: Fry adds post-millennials may have more help at home to prepare for higher education. That's because they're more likely than millennials to live with a parent with at least a bachelor's degree.
FRY: Their parents have a better sense of how to get them prepared to go to college. Their parents have a better sense of sort of the pathways and how college admissions work here in the U.S. And also, they have higher incomes.
WANG: Fry cautions this is one snapshot of a generation, and that picture may shift with time and changes in immigration patterns. What 21-year-old Yasmin Butt doesn't plan to shift is her determination to finish her schooling. She's set to graduate from Columbia University in May and has two younger sisters, one also in college and another applying to schools.
So you have a family of post-millennials.
YASMIN BUTT: Yes, we're all born after '97.
WANG: Butt says her mother, who was born in Chile and never went to college, raised her and her two sisters with the same routine every night.
BUTT: She would tell us that she won't be able to die happy and, like, in peace if her daughters don't go to college and become something big and great.
WANG: The Pew Research Center is planning to keep studying where post-millennials like Butt go next. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.