Generation Alpha: Mark McCrindle Q & A with the New York Times

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Q. So what comes after Generation Z - and how were they named?

When I was researching my book The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations (published in 2009) it became apparent that a new generation was about to commence and there was no name for them. So I conducted a survey (we’re researchers after all) to find out what people think the generation after Z should be called and while many names emerged, and Generation A was the most mentioned, Generation Alpha got some mentions too and so I settled on that for the title of the chapter Beyond Z: Meet Generation Alpha. It just made sense as it is in keeping with scientific nomenclature of using the Greek alphabet in lieu of the Latin and it didn’t make sense to go back to A, after all they are the first generation wholly born in the 21st Century and so they are the start of something new not a return to the old.

Q. Will these generational labels survive the test of time?

I have found from my generational research that generic labels rather than descriptive ones are likely to last. Names like the Baby Boomers, which describe a unique demographic phenomenon at the birth of a generation, or even Millennials, based on the timing when the leading edge were coming of age, are aberrations. A label like Gen X, Gen Z and Gen Alpha provide a blank canvas on which a generation can create their own identity rather than have a descriptive label, relevant for just a segment of the cohort or for a period of time, pinned on them. And while some Gen Xers bemoan that label, for a while there it was “slackers” and “baby busters”, and labels like “latch key kids” and “the MTV generation” as they were also called seem ridiculous for this generation turning 50 this year. Similarly for the Millennials or Gen Y- labels like “the dot com kids” and “the iPod generation” are short-sighted.

Read Mark’s interview in The New York Times here.

Q. Are companies and marketers already starting to focus on this demographic?

There are more than 2.5 million Gen Alphas born globally every week. When they have all been born (2025) they will number almost 2 billion. They start school next year and will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever. They will comprise the largest generation of middle class consumers our world has ever seen and they are also “upagers” – older younger and influencing parental purchasing earlier and so it is no surprise that marketers are trying to better understand and prepare for this generation.

Q. How do you try to gather intelligence about a group of people this young?

We can learn a fair bit about them by analysing some key area starting with the demographics which gives us some forward forecasts: age of parents (older), cultural mix (more diverse), socioeconomics (slightly wealthier), family size (smaller), life expectancy (longer). Then there is the research of their parents, the Millennials (or Generation Y) which gives us a sense of how they will be raised (moving more frequently, career changing, materially endowed, technologically supplied, outsourcing aspects of parenting such as child care etc). Finally there is the analysis of the youngsters themselves and their formative years and we can learn a lot from this too (app-based play, increased screen time, shorter attention spans, digital literacy but less social formation etc).

Q. Technology was obviously a defining factor for Generation Y and has been even more so for Generation Z. How much more tech-intensive can the lives of Generation Alpha possibly become and what might be the consequences?

Generation Alpha are part of an unintentional global experiment where screens are placed in front of them from the youngest age as pacifiers, entertainers and educational aids. This great screenage in which we are all living has bigger impacts on the generation exposed to such screen saturation during their formative years. They began being born in 2010, the year the iPad was launched, Instagram was created and App was the word of the year and so have been raised as screenagers to a greater extent than the fixed screens of the past could facilitate. For this reason we also call them Generation Glass because the glass that they interact on now and will wear on their wrist, as glasses on their face, that will be on the Head Up Display of the car they learn to drive on, or the interactive school desk where they learn will transform how they work, shop, learn, connect and play. We were raised in a world where glass was something you looked through but for them it is something you look at. For us it was “hands off the glass” but for this kinaesthetic generation, glass is a hands on medium. Not since Gutenberg transformed the utility of paper with his printing press in the 15th Century has a medium been so transformed for learning and communication purposes as glass- and it has happened in the lifetime of Generation Alpha.

Read Mark’s interview in The New York Times here.

What are some other social factors, beyond technology that seem likely to shape the Generation Alpha identity?

They are upagers in many ways: physical maturity is on setting earlier so adolescence for them will begin earlier- but beyond the physical, social, psychological, educational, commercial sophistication begins earlier- which can have negative as well as positive consequences. Interestingly for them while adolescence begins earlier, it extends later. The adult life stage, once measured by marriage, children, mortgage and career is being pushed back. This generation will stay in education longer, start their earning years later and so stay at home with their parents later than was previously the case. The role of parents therefore spans a longer age range- often still with the adult kids at home even into their late 20’s. This generation will no doubt stay with this trend and in Australia we’ve labelled the stay at home 20-somethings the KIPPERS which stands for Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings!

What comes after Generation Alpha?

Generational definitions are most useful when they span a set age range and so allow meaningful comparisons across generations. That is why we define the generations by the following years of birth:

Baby Boomers: 1946-1964

Generation X: 1965-1979

Generation Y (Millennials) 1980-1994

Generation Z: 1995-2009

Generation Alpha: 2010-2024

And so it follows that Generation Beta will be 2025-2039.

If the nomenclature sticks then we will afterwards have Generation Gamma and Generation Delta etc but we won’t be getting there until the second half of the 21st Century so there is plenty of time to reflect on the labels!

Read Mark’s interview in The New York Times here.


Mark McCrindle is an award-winning social researcher, best-selling author, TedX speaker and influential thought leader, and is regularly commissioned to deliver strategy and advice to the boards and executive committees of some of Australia’s leading organisations.

Mark’s understanding of the key social trends as well as his engaging communication style places him in high demand in the press, on radio and on television shows, such as Sunrise, Today, The Morning Show, ABC News 24 and A Current Affair.

His research firm counts amongst its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and his highly valued reports and infographics have developed his regard as a data scientist, demographer, futurist and social commentator.

Welcome to our blog...

We have a passion for research that tells a story, that can be presented visually, that brings about change and improves organisations. And we hope these resources help you know the times.

Our Social Media Sites

Facebook | McCrindle Research Social Media YouTube | McCrindle Research Social Media Twitter | McCrindle Research Social Media Flickr | McCrindle Research Social Media Pinterest | McCrindle Research Social Media Google Plus | McCrindle Research Social Media LinkedIn | McCrindle Research Social Media Mark McCrindle Slideshare

Last 150 Articles


millionth australian real estate in the media statistics rich The Daily Edition sports brands sunburnt country moderators guide young australians etiquette SA NEETs culturally diverse cancelling plans thought leadership gender culture January 26th society trends geomapping holiday daily telegraph annual income panel social life Channel Seven showreel selfie investment poor collaboration the hills shire finance states social research education research sydney metro financial independence #censusfail mccrindle tea real cooking children australian social research population growth Australian Families balance keynote Work place ideas Kiwi public speaking Northern Territory Merry Christmas workplace culture Geoff Brailey cold urban ethnography criminal cultural diveristy cartodb conferences earn social issues affordable conference Australian Communities Trends clothing SMART optus my business awards social commentator students sunny days anzac outsourcing capital city group educated spend townhouses fresh domestic product healthy future business crime housing ACT national wealth paying to work identity google for education holidays Australians engagement commute sustainable vegemite volunteering census results easy rider NT IT Specialists research report high school survey quote logan jobs of the future community engagement not for profit education sector eliane miles shifts baby names report train wealth inequality the average aussie results social lives twentyseventeen school retirement prince george mccrindle in the media royal dreaming emerging trends marketing population video property price 2016 census results the changing face of New Zealand list hornsby 2016 Scouts FPA charities medicine ageing population ultimo sydneycity narcissism group session commuters Myth ABS city ease of travel rent EFF Population Clock Netflix program coffee weekly earnings staying in optus online environment teaching visual faith 1994 impact suburbs presentations households australian communities trends report Canberra offenders changing face of sydney education future report grandparents charity overcast tv earning GPO wellbeing average sydneysider investing Duchess of Cambridge low density relational financial dreams dreams year 7 VIC event World Water Day millennials generation Z millenials acf15 home ownership dessert aged care puzzle Andrew Duffin Deaths land of the middle class housing affordability pharmacies Crime Rates census 2016 news unaffordable school students weather internet parenting Australian demographics census data high density living work mates baby DESTEL google case study equip area long weekend Generation Y christmas TAS social researchers office sydney event digital know the times data visualisation transport religion internship Wodonga infographic wall Australian Home stats motivate insights Australia street researcher challenge local couple socialites online shopping australian community trends report visualisation focus groups media commentary environmental scanning Bathburst mccrindle gold coast keynote speaker award winner economy authenticity hobart facts award 1980 plans Christmas season infographics organisational culture office opening Engineering Manager father's day Northern Beaches employment gig Australian Bureau of Statistics cancel plans trends of 2016 bondi curiosity apartment census Adelaide social change happiness Mark McCrindle 2014 wedding financial planning NFP event focus group goals social enquiry Hills Shire Council Hornsby Shire Council water neutral bay relevant responsive professional services McCrindle Speakers ACF2017 leadership parents spirituality Queensland litter training earnings trades baby name predictions volunteers ferry Northern Beaches Christian School generation alpha Love global easter JOMO suburban living brisbane victoria perth suburb government wealth and income housing market Christmas lunch social researcher storytelling local community greatness Sydney keynote speaker 24,000,000 innovative WA high density poker master celebration leader publication year 12 middle class survey design social commentary Aussies aged care christian urban living index owning a home summer research data australians staying home more baby boom snapshot public holiday New South Wales technology education careers breakfast meals new york times renter of the future home owner business index trend baby name trends entrepreneur contiki The ABC of XYZ PSI entertainment ACF17 NSW divorce rate infographic insight household live the dream mateship potts point intern tea proactive property market menai "know the times" workforce wages Real Estate Institute of Victoria social impact population map brand daily commute average Australian February 16 global generations belief mccrindle research ageing education future baby boomers Australian Trends community marriage huffington post world youth day presentation Financial Planning Association Charlotte young people graphs future-proof Australian Census housing trends 10 years youth divorce data analyst university bureau communications Births toys Queensland: QLD wage world university degree village australia dream 2017 Christmas presents SMSF meetings Northern beaches Event sydney hills small business English customer rule keeper budget mythbusters women 24 million volunteer shopping leadership workshop Sydney Hills Business Chamber ACF 2016 food omnibus forecasting future of shopping Royals ipswich forecast stay home cost of living VET generation school satisfaction collaborative money sydney speaker manly debt Tuesday Trends conference speaker social shifts census fail income employers socialising professional development house prices cancelling event eliane pharmacy cultural diversity urban taskforce schools students newspaper educhat Australia Day Skilling learner office space teleworking slideshare generations residents shbc research pack career princess charlotte 1968 research visualisation Real Estate names demography James Ward screenage REIV National Conference social analysis Gen X Tasmania mortgage Research Director VET sector demographic trends events Vocational education innovation Research Executive data teachers kate middleton monarchy sun FOMO micro seasons church rise of local market research Financial Planning Association of Australia faux-ciliser public speaker politics cars fears family trends analyst global financial crisis CBD Aussie men property Macquarie University the hills New Zeland media rising house prices engage economic state internships learning teacher demographer hills shire personal growth typical australian interactive TEDx Social Trend living mother's day experience local communities Res Vis Education Future Forum gig economy bus financial fears click South Australia Caregiver conference presentation national private wealth speakers pack child care society participants buildings crows nest marrickville social Generation X capital cities Christchurch travelling research SRE friendship gen alpha language apartments unemployment consumer priorities follow trend tuesday community event cloudy days 40 million thrive australian high density apartments sentiments workplace communication TDE repayments wealth distribution Melbourne casual growing population entrepreneurs of today professional speaker population milestone social trends baby names financial wealth darwin royal influence cost Australian schools tips hello fresh future of education System's Architect trends of 2017 hills Do It Yourself mover and shaker car sector Wellington tattoos investor nfp future communities vegetarian future of work Australia Day 2017 urban living moreton bay megatrends renting baby name brand experience the australian dream Channel 7 2013 2016 census purpose cash learning styles change business performance Australian Dream NBRS learn sector wide study Financial Planning Week emerging generations friends chairty pyrmont housing growth CPI Assistant Store Manager demographic post rationalism rental stress norwest non profit hopes mythbusting christianity gen z families professional presenters social media networking ashley mckenzie entrepreneurial Valentine’s Day ACF emerging technologies speaker media activity 2012 forum Sydney mentor shopper's pick optimistic 2020 debate future proofing goal resilience organisations safe trends research services life travel tuesday recap Australian communities choice workers new office wolloomooloo the great screenage grave decision media release 2015 future proof micro apartments going out NBRS Architecture generational trends blaxland communicate house price alpha faux-cilise deloitte 23 million sector wide Australian community trends volunteering data royal family skills tableau energy house price rise REIV Conference winter blues winter personalities builders supply and demand affordability report baby names australia report rain home work-life Gen Y waverton Tuesday Trend TED increasing densification national crime rates analysis royal baby woolworths in depth interviews consumerism qualitative research marriages HSC ashley fell speakers define lalor park futurist resource student australian communities forum jobs salary Australian Population faux-cilising professional care support Territory average aussie schools Western Australia dare to dream lifestyle mobile work financial future cica mining boom teach growth sydneysiders Word Up sydneysider youth unemployment shopping centre story staff wealth and income distribution tertiary education DIY demographics not-for-profit demographic transformations Kirsten Brewer 1975 study house TED talk aussie culture workshop Wagga Wagga