For all the hype and the many (86.1 million and counting) references to Gen Z on the internet, it isn’t a true generation born in a distinctly different era, raised by a different generation of midlife adults.

A generation is identified by those people who share a common series of hallmark attitudes and behaviors, and whose broadly shared growing-up and coming-of-age experiences give its members a singular outlook on life. If you’ve ever wondered why so many media stories and public opinion surveys group “Gen Z” and Millennials together, it’s because the behaviors and attitudes displayed by Americans born from 1997 to 2004 have proven over and over to be remarkably similar to those Americans born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s.

These are not signs of two distinct generations close in age, who just coincidentally happen to be similar. The telltale sign of where generational boundaries should be drawn are the people themselves. On that basis, the people commonly referred to as “Gen Z” today should be regarded as younger Millennials, rather than as a distinct American generation.

What is true is “Gen Z” mostly have GenX parents, which while slightly different than older Millennials with Boomer parents, isn’t significant enough to make them a separate generation. 

What is true is the strong media desire to focus on the generation of youth from a marketing perspective and content generation perspective – articles, blog posts, infographics and white papers. 

If you were to let go of the media story that “Gen Z”is  a different and new generation and instead is a subset of late-wave Millennials, it will help you be more attuned to when the real next generation, The Other Ones who are 18 at the top end in 2023, enter the workforce around 2030. That is when things are really going to change … once again.