Generation Z is likely to become the most self-educated generation, according to a recent report from Yardeni Research. (Yardeni defines Generation Z as those born between 1997 and 2010.)
“Gen Zers are likely to be the most self-educated generation yet,” the report stated. “However, they are acutely aware of the cost of a traditional college education and worried about accumulating student debt.”
Melissa Tagg, director of Research and Operations for Yardeni, describes Gen Z as “children of the recession.”
“These are children who’ve grown up watching the generation before them struggle in terms of finding jobs and being saddled with student debt,” Tagg told Yahoo Finance.
‘The access to experts wasn’t there in previous generations’
According to the Yardeni report, Gen Zers are “acutely aware” of the cost of a traditional college education and worried about accumulating student debt. The “self-education” that they turn to is simply exploring alternatives to traditional education, such as delving into different topics of interest through technology. These three traits of motivation, access, and ability is what sets Gen Z apart from the rest, Tagg said.
“Books are available, but a lot of Gen Zers have the ability to learn about whatever field they’re interested in, even from experts, through YouTube,” she said. “The access to experts wasn’t there in previous generations.”
The report, citing a 2015 trend report from Ford ($F), noted that 64% of Gen Zers were considering earning an advanced degree, compared to 71% of millennials. “Some Gen Zers are expected to explore less expensive alternatives to traditional schooling, preferring online study and other lifestyle options,” the report added. “Some Gen Zers may pursue online degrees while working simultaneously right after high school.”
‘They have incredible technological instincts’
In addition to Gen Z’s motivation is their “immense access” to information, which millennials possessed to an extent. As a result, technology has become their unconventional tool for self-education.
“These are industrious young adults that have had incredible access to things like YouTube and MOOCs (massive open online courses),” Tagg said. “They have incredible technological instincts. Gen Z have really grown up with all this access to technology and a lot don’t even remember the days before the smartphone.”
In terms of implications, Tagg believes that we could see a higher percentage of self-employed individuals in the US economy.
“Gen Z have an entrepreneurial spirit with many having expressed the desire to own a small business one day,” she said. “Some have already started earning self-employment income in their teen years with digital-based business models, which they have taught themselves how to start and grow.”
According to Statista, only 3% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 years old are self-employed. With more job openings on the rise and an increased use of technology, Tagg thinks this could change.
“All of these things are driving what I believe to be an incredibly industrious group of young adults entering the workforce at a time when the labor force is incredibly tight and employers are having trouble filling positions,” Tagg said. “The combination of the two will have incredibly positive implications for the labor force. Personally, I’m excited to see what comes with that.”
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.