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Young People of Color Tell YPulse Which Identifying Terms They Prefer

We asked Gen Z and Millennials what terminology they prefer when talking about their race or ethnicity 


  • With so many different terms being used by different groups and sources, YPulse asked Gen Z and Millennials what language they prefer to talk about race and ethnicity
  • People of color is the most preferred term for young people who are not White
  • Young people of different demographics have different preferences for identifying their race and ethnicity

Gen Z and Millennials are the most diverse generations to date. Gen Z especially is reported as even more diverse than the older gen; U.S. Census data shows they are the diversity tipping point—the first gen to be more than half people of color. And as YPulse reports on the values and behaviors of young people of color, we strive to use the most inclusive and appropriate language possible when talking about them. But there’s a mix of views on which race and ethnicity terminology best suits different populations, so for our recent Representation in Action report, we let Gen Z and Millennials themselves tell us which words and terms are their most preferred.  

After conversations about race and racial inequities became more mainstream in 2020, sparked largely by the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, new terminology to talk about race was adopted, albeit inconsistently. The term “BIPOC,” standing for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, began to be more widely used, in what was deemed an effort to highlight the different experiences of oppression had by Black and Indigenous communities. But use of the term has been constantly debated, and some even say it felt like a way to avoid saying words like “Black.” Even more recently, politics have played a role on race- and ethnicity-based language, with the term “Latinx” being banned from official documents in several states, for reasons of both LGBTQ+ inclusivity and whitewashing. 

For some time, YPulse has used the term BIPOC when referring to young people of color. But knowing that the language we use to talk about race is important, and debates are easy to find while actual preferences among young people hard to come by, YPulse asked Gen Z and Millennials themselves which terms they feel are best to talk about all people of races and ethnicities that are not White, and found BIPOC is not a top choice for any young demographic:  

Bar chart showing which terms young people of color prefer others use when talking about people of all races and ethnicities that are not White.

*In YPulse surveys, respondents who identify themselves as races/ethnicities other than White, Black, Asian, or Hispanic are combined with Asian young people for demographic analysis. 

People of color is the term Gen Z and Millennials prefer 

Of the different terms being used to talk about people of all races and ethnicities that are not White, Gen Z and Millennials’ overall most popular choice is “people of color.” More than half of Black respondents say this is the term they prefer, and it’s the most popular choice among Asian/other race respondents as well, while Hispanic young people are more likely to say they prefer the term “multicultural.” Comparatively, only 4% of young people of color said they would prefer the term “BIPOC,” making it the least popular option.  

Our data also shows that Gen Z is far more likely than Millennials to prefer the term people of color, at 47% compared to 38%—though it is still Millennials’ top choice. Neither group has a majority consensus on the best term to use, but Millennials are almost equally likely (37%) to say they prefer the term “Multicultural,” compared to only 26% of Gen Z who say so.  

That said, the majority (72%) of young people agree that “There shouldn’t be one acronym to describe multiple groups of people.” Many sources cite that some people of color feel that even though terms like “BIPOC” were meant to differentiate multiple experiences through one term, they instead created a monolith representing many unqiue communities. Some say the same about “people of color,” highlighting the importance of identifying individuals and communities by their specific racial or ethnic identities. So, while brands and marketers may be looking for terms to internally identify these demographics of young consumers, it’s important to understand they ultimately want their separate, unique identities recognized—so knowing which language each demographic prefers is equally, if not more, important.  

Young people from different race demographics prefer to be identified mainly by their race or ethnicity  

In order to accurately and respectfully identify young people, YPulse asked respondents of different demographics to choose which specific terms they prefer when others are talking about their identity—with options including race, their country of origin, “person of color,” and more specific ethnic identifiers for each. For Black, Hispanic, and Asian young people, there are clearly majority preferred terms: 

Table showing which identifying terms young Black, Hispanic, and Asian people prefer when others talk about their race

The majority (61%) of young Black people tell YPulse they prefer the term “Black” when referring to their race, while 39% prefer “African American,” and 10% prefer “person of color.” Black Gen Z are far less likely than Millennials to prefer the term “African American,” with 32% choosing this option compared to 43% of Millennials and are slightly more likely (+6pts) to prefer “Black.”  

For young Asian people, “Asian” is by far the term they prefer to talk about their race. Their second most popular choice was to be identified by their country of origin (e.g., Japanese, Indian, etc.), but only 16% said so. Even less say they’d prefer to be identified as “Asian American” (13%).  

For Hispanic youth, “Hispanic” is preferred by 59%, while “Latino / Latina” come in a close second at 42%. Only 10% of Hispanic young people say they prefer the term “Latinx,” as compared to 42% who prefer “Latino / Latina.” The term emerged as a way to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, specifically non-binary people, by eliminating the gendering of the word. As such, our data shows this is a term preferred by 25% of LGBTQ+ Hispanic people, compared to only 5% of non-LGBTQ+. The term is still only third most preferred, though, even by LGBTQ+ Hispanic youth, so while potentially worth using for gender inclusivity, it falls behind the top preference of “Hispanic.”  

A note on YPulse editorial style 

In accordance with our survey findings, YPulse will use the term “people of color” or “POC” instead of “BIPOC” moving forward. We will also be using the preferred terms our survey answers indicate for each racial and ethnic demographic. Our aim is always to represent the voice of young consumers, and with this data we can move forward using the terms we know reflect their preferences. 

We also intend to continue capitalizing the first letter of race and ethnicity identifying words (e.g. Black, White, and Hispanic). However, the broad term “people of color” will not be capitalized unless in the instance of the acronym POC, in alignment with guidelines from APA, and choices by publications such as NPR and The Washington Post