New Survey Shows Gen Z Is Not Thrilled About Capitalism

By: Lauren | Published: Dec 24, 2023

Gen Z, the newest generation of young professionals, is known for their love of technology, trendy fashion choices, and now, a distrust of capitalism.

According to a survey conducted by Business Insider, many Gen Zers actually reported that they prefer socialism as opposed to capitalism in regard to economic structure, and their reasoning is quite interesting.

Socialism vs. Capitalism

Before diving into the next generation’s collective opinions on the economy, it’s first crucial to understand what the difference between these two systems is.

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Protesters holding a sign that reads “Socialism is the Cure”

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Of course, there are many variations of both, but the general idea is that capitalism is a system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, whereas socialism advocates for sale and industry to be owned and regulated by the community, not the individual.

Capitalism Has Long Been the Backbone of the American Economy

Since its inception in 1776, the United States has boasted about its successful capitalist economy.

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Group of young people sitting on stairs

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And Americans have, historically, agreed with the idea that capitalism created the country itself, and this system defines the American dream. However, it now seems that the younger generation doesn’t agree.

The Business Insider Survey

In July 2023, Business Insider asked more than 1,800 Americans, including over 600 Gen Zers, a few questions regarding how they feel about work, money, and connection.

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Tents in a park with a sign that reads “Smash Fossil Capitalism”

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Specifically, they asked them how they felt about capitalism versus socialism, and while 42% reported that they didn’t have a preference or didn’t know how they felt, 29% agreed that they would prefer socialism over capitalism.

Gen Zers Are Just Different

At almost 30%, Gen Zers had the highest percentage of people of any generation who disagreed with capitalism in favor of socialism.

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Sign that reads “We Are the 99%”

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And in general, it seems that the reason why so many of the younger generation feel this way is because they are frustrated with the widespread economic inequality throughout the country.

What Gen Zers Have to Say

One Gen Zer, Marianna Pecora, who works as the communications director of Voters for Tomorrow, explained, “Seeing corporate greed in the news every single day makes it understandable that we would want something better.”

Couple standing in front of a mansion with two luxury sports cars

Source: Freepik

It seems that their problem doesn’t lie with the hyper-wealthy but with the fact that there isn’t enough help for those at the bottom.

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Those Left Behind

Christina Elson, executive director of the Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University, said, “You hear about ‘billionaires should be outlawed’ — that really isn’t the issue.”

Homeless man sleeping on a bench, covered by an American flag blanket

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And continued, “The issue is the bottom. What is the appropriate bottom living standard for an American citizen, and what role should the government have in ensuring that people don’t fall below that.”

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The Average American Is Struggling

There’s no doubt that the average American is struggling financially right now; with the ever-increasing cost of living, rent, housing costs, and general inflation, many can’t afford to live comfortably like previous generations could.

President Joe Biden speaking about lowering costs for American families

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Economist and author Paul Collier said that there are essentially two types of capitalism, “raise me up” and “drag me down,” and the latter often leads to the inequality Americans are currently experiencing. Collier explained, “It’s not capitalism that’s the problem. It’s what sort of capitalism you get.”

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This Is the Kind of Capitalism Gen Z Takes Issue With

Many Gen Zers agree that the “game is rigged” and that if millions of Americans cannot afford health care or groceries, something really needs to change.

Protesters holding sign that reads “Healthcare Not Warfare”

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Elise Joshi, executive director at Gen-Z for Change, said, “A system that centers [on] overproduction, overconsumption, and perpetual growth is not sustainable. From increasing oil development in the midst of a climate crisis to jacking up food and energy costs, there’s only a matter of time before we collectively agree that this setup cannot persist.”

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Raising the Minimum Wage Would Be a Start

Some Gen Zers feel that one simple change that would make a big difference is raising the national minimum wage.

Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd with a sign that reads “Raise the Wage, It’s Time for $17”

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Other opportunities for low-income Americans, such as free community college, additional student debt relief, and others, could also make a huge difference in the seemingly growing divide among the American people.

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Regulated Capitalism Is Not Impossible

Gen Z mostly agrees that they don’t need or even want an entirely socialist economy; they just want a more regulated system than what they have now.

Photograph of Coppenhagen, Denmark

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And what they are asking for is not impossible; countries around the world, including Denmark, have found a way to use capitalist values successfully without glowing inequality among residents.

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The 2024 Election Might Change Everything

The bottom line is that Gen Zers want change, and as they can now vote, they will likely be using their votes to try to get it.

Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a rally for the 2024 presidential elections

Source: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

How this will affect the 2024 elections is yet to be seen, but it will likely be one of the most important presidential elections in their lifetimes, as whoever is elected will either initiate immense change or keep the status quo.

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