It was the early 19th century when the global human population reached a billion for the first time. Then, in just a couple of centuries, this figure grew more than sevenfold. The world population currently stands at around 7.6 billion. As the globe prepares to be the home of almost 10 billion inhabitants by 2050, members of each generation leave a unique mark in history.
Even though the global societies are aging, the rapid population growth means that the majority of the people in the world are still young. A study based on the United Nations’ data estimates that one-third of the global population was born after 2001. More specifically, accounting for a total of 64 percent of the worldwide population, Generation Z and Generation Y comprise the largest demographic group in the world.
Generation Y and Z Already Dominate Cities
As the rapid population growth goes hand-in-hand with urbanization, more than half of the 7.6 billion live in cities — a rate that keeps accelerating. Members of Generation Z, (born between 1997 and 2012) and Generation Y, also known as millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), are the youngest urbanized group of young adults.
It’s no secret that these generations cherish living in cities, where they can maximize the economic, professional, and social opportunities. Research shows that this love for urban living isn’t wearing off. Yet, there’s more that makes these generations unique and important for the future of the cities. While millennials are currently the most well-educated cohort of history, their younger Gen Z peers are on track to be even more educated.
Nevertheless, growing up between the 1980s and 2000s, Gen Z and Gen Y witnessed events like the 2008 economic crisis, threats of climate change, as well as the technology’s global takeover. Even though the generational traits might differ across cultures, noteworthy economic, social, and political developments determine much of each generation’s psyche. As these matters shape the identities of this multi-billion-member demographic group, their values also keep evolving the cities around the world in many ways.
Long Live Apartments
As the financial crisis of 2008 shook the Western world and shrunk economies, millions kept moving to cities, where the economic opportunities remained concentrated. Favoring apartments and multifamily settlements was a natural consequence for these young professionals. This cohort fuelled the demand for compact and functional apartments in urban centers, and it continues to rise.
However, for millennials and Gen Z, living in apartments is a choice that goes beyond rational financial calculations. In an increasingly high-tech and isolating world, apartments and multifamily settlements provide a sense of community. In addition to traditional apartments, the demand for co-living spaces, where inhabitants can connect in common areas or attend regular events together, is on the rise.
Moreover, apartments are often more sustainable and take less time to maintain compared to houses. This allows the pragmatic millennials and Gen Z to channelize their time and resources into other things enjoy.
Apartments and multifamily settlements continue to make economic and emotional sense to those born between the 1980s and 2000s. Thus, cities around the world will keep having better and smarter buildings to cater to these needs in the future.
Strides in Sustainability
The younger generations love green, and the photos of plant-filled apartments or succulents across social media are far from the only proof.
Protecting the environment is a top concern for millennials and Gen Z. Both groups assume responsibility and believe their daily actions and decisions have significant consequences. To illustrate, 75 percent of millennials are altering their purchasing behavior with the environment in mind. Likewise, Gen Z are anything but passive consumers. While they yearn to be unique, their emphasis on ethical and sustainable behaviors is even higher than the previous generations.
The attitude of these cohorts towards life in the city is no exception, and it’s driving cities to take strides in sustainability. They want to live in sustainable cities with reliable public transport, minimal reliance on cars, and large, green public parks. Likewise, both millennials and Gen Z prioritize renewable energy.
These green demands and commitments are already forcing a shift of culture. Sustainable cities are a top priority of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. As the influence of Gen Y and Gen Z grows, cities around the world will accelerate ecological solutions.
Tech-powered, But Humane
Some might mock the members of Gen Y and Gen Z for their affliction with technology and smartphones. However, this fondness of technology is changing the world for better, especially cities.
Cities will improve the lives of their inhabitants in manifold ways, tapping into high-tech solutions. From IoT-powered street lights to delivery drones, examples of this are already taking place in tech-forward cities like Singapore or San Francisco.
Millions of millennials and Gen Z had access to the internet and high-tech devices for a significant portion of their lives. In the same way that their personal and professional lives smoothly blend with these technologies, the cities where they live will follow the course.
Inclusive Cities Where Everyone Counts
Stereotypes in the media often depict them as selfish and individualistic. However, Gen Z and millennials are committed to social justice much more deeply compared to the previous generations.
Research shows that they tend to be more sensitive about issues like climate change, racial justice, gender equality, or disability inclusion. As the most well-educated generations, they always question the existing power structures, but also are qualified to create movements and push for change — especially in their cities.
Urban landscapes around the world are evolving parallel to the quintessential Gen Y and Gen Z belief that everyone counts and a city must help to maximize one’s potential, rather than to hinder it.
City planners increasingly cater to more diverse urban needs like women-friendly public transportation, barrier-free access solutions for wheelchair users, or safe public spaces to facilitate dialogue between different groups.
A Global Shift of Urban Culture
Whether out of economic or personal choices, millennials and Gen Z favor living in cities, and they won’t leave them any time soon. These tech-savvy and critically-thinking individuals want more than flat whites, trendy apartments, or social media followers. Their core values, such as a love of minimalism and tech, as well as commitment to sustainability and inclusion, are set to disrupt the cities they love so much and create a historical legacy.
Thanks to the strides Gen Y and Gen Z are pushing their societies to take, 10 billion global citizens will be living in better cities in 2050.