The youngest generation in the U.S. is entering adulthood as the country's most racially and ethnically diverse generation and is on its way to becoming the best educated generation yet, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday.
While there is no agreement so far on what to call these young people born after 1996 — some say Generation Z, others iGen — researchers say there are demographic trends that separate them from millennials, who were once also heralded for their broad racial and ethnic makeup.
The researchers analyzed post-millennials who are currently between the ages of 6 and 21. They found nearly half — 48 percent — are from communities of color.
A "bare majority," the report notes, of 52 percent are non-Hispanic white, compared to 61 percent of millennials in 2002 when they were in the same age range.
"There's much more Hispanic and Asian presence among the nation's children and youth today," says Richard Fry, a senior research at Pew who co-authored the report with Kim Parker.
They were part of a team that analyzed data from the Census Bureau to produce Pew's first-ever report focused on the post-millennial generation.
The report also found fewer immigrants among the post-millennial generation. "They reflect sort of the reduced immigration flows following the Great Recession," Fry says.
The older group of post-millennials appear to be better educated than previous generations. Researchers say that's driven in part by more young Latinos born in the U.S. instead of abroad.
U.S.-born Latinos between the ages of 18 and 20 and no longer in high school are more likely than their counterparts born outside the U.S. to be enrolled in college, the researchers found.
Older post-millennials, Fry says, are less likely to drop out of high school compared to millennials when they were the same age. "They're more likely to finish high school," he says, "And of those who aren't enrolled in high school, they're more likely to be in college."
The researchers warn, though, that these trends may not last.
"It's important to point out that future immigration patterns may affect the educational outcomes of post-Millennials," their report notes, "so these generational comparisons represent a current snapshot."
Fry also points out that many younger post-millennials are still working through elementary and middle schools, and their educational paths could shift the generation's ultimate trajectory.
For now, though, Yasmin Butt, 21, of Staten Island, N.Y., is among those Latino college students helping post-millennials meet their educational benchmarks.
A senior at Columbia University studying psychology and women's, gender and sexuality studies, Butt was raised by her mother, who was born in Chile, in a family with two younger post-millennial sisters. Her middle sister is also enrolled in college, and the younger one is applying to schools as a high school senior.
Her mother, she says, "would tell us that she won't be able to die happy and in peace if her daughters don't go to college and become something big and great."