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The Biggest Problem Gen Z & Millennials Say They Are Facing in 2021

We asked young people to tell us the biggest problem their generation faces today. Here’s what they told us…


Each year, we ask young consumers what they think the biggest problems they face are to get a better understanding of what the top worries are for these generations. In 2019,  climate change made the top of the ranking for the first time, underscoring these generations’ serious concerns about the environment. But in 2020, during a year defined by the pandemic and political upheaval, racism and discrimination topped the list, capturing the frustrations and fears of young people on the precipice of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests.

A year later, we’ve asked them again, and found their top concerns have remained the same: 

The Biggest Problem Their Generation Faces Now
Among 13-39-year-olds

  1. COVID-19
  2. Racism / Discrimination
  3. Technology addiction
  4. Financial concerns / Debt
  5. Unemployment / Low paying jobs / Job insecurity
  6. Economic issues
  7. Climate change
  8. Social media
  9. Mental health problems
  10. Inequality
  11. Too sensitive / Cancel culture
  12. Lack of motivation / laziness
  13. Hate / Intolerance
  14. Drug / alcohol / sex addiction
  15. Lack of morals / values
  16. Violence / Terrorism / Conflict
  17. Police Brutality

Our survey was fielded between May 5th, 2021 and May 12th, 2021, and COVID-19 topped the list for them this year. While we’ve documented how many young consumers are starting to get back to “normal” in the month since, fears around the pandemic are still strong. Many named the vaccine and social distancing as the solutions to the problem, and we also found that YPulse’s data showed that over half of 13-39-year-olds planned to be or would be vaccinated before the summer. But the impacts of the pandemic are far reaching for them, and also affected Gen Z and Millennials’ milestones and finances—something many are most likely still trying to recover from. The fact that Unemployment / Low paying jobs / Job instability is in the top five this year is likely linked to the pandemic as well. 

But Racism/Discrimination was a close second place on the ranking—and COVID and Racism/Discrimination were far more likely to be named by Gen Z and Millennials than the other problems on the list. A year after the Black Lives Matter protests and amid the ongoing #StopAsianHate movement, awareness around racism and discrimination has only grown since we asked this question last year. And even though a majority (68%) of 13-39-year-olds believe that brands have been following through with their anti-racism promises, it’s clear that they think a lot of work still needs to be done. We recently told you how Gen Z and Millennials say that racism has actually gotten worse in the U.S.—with 60% saying it’s getting worse in 2021, compared to 46% in 2020

Interestingly, “Technology addiction” made their top five responses on the list. While it’s certainly been a concern in years’ past, the last year might have intensified their view of tech addiction as a problem. Young people spent more time on their phones, screens, and social media more than ever before in the last year and a half, it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that overreliance on their devices is a growing issue for them. Smartphones and the internet were most commonly mentioned technology they feel their generation is addicted to. Social media also came in the top 10 list, with “too much focus on social media” a variation of this response. According to one 15-year-old female, “Social media is a big thing. Since almost all our lives is “online” it can be hard for us to connect with the outside world. Plus social media also brings its negative impact and we can clearly see how that affects us teens these days.”

COVID, Racism, and Tech addiction were in the top five ranking for teens, twentysomethings, and thirtysomethings: 

While there were many commonalities between responses from these age groups, a few differences stand out. Gen Z teens were more likely than any other group to say that being too sensitive and Cancel Culture are problems for their generation. A 16-year-old female explained, “We are easy to judge and easy to cancel,” and a 17-year-old male told us “Extreme sensitivity against anything remotely offensive.” Is the biggest problem for his generation. Interestingly though, YPulse’s Not Waiting For the World to Change research found that 52% 13-19-year-olds agree that cancel culture has been effective at creating social change—so young people may be split on whether it is a problem. However, that research also found 59% agree, “My generation is too sensitive and creates issues that are not there.” Gen Z teens were also more likely than other groups to say that mental health problems are the biggest problem, another piece of evidence that mental wellness is a major driver for this generation.

YPulse Business users can access the full 4th of July and America Views behavioral report and data here

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