Dear Journal of the Scientific Society Editors,
In 2020, Schenarts provided an overview of Generation Z (Gen Z).
An entire field of sociological research revolves around the ability to appreciate attitudes, trends, and sociopolitical and economic perspectives surrounding specific generations, or spans of years that correspond to distinct generational experiences. This letter draws primarily from the Pew Research Center, which tends to provide US-centered survey-based analyses. These artificial “generational” social constructs are crudely divided into approximately 22-year intervals, for example, Generation X (Gen X) lies between 1965 and 1980, millennials between 1981 and 1996, and Gen Z between 1997 and 2019, although the endpoint of Gen Z has not been fixed. Although ample papers and reports characterize these generations, only a few are highlighted next. Less millennials, relative to earlier generations, are living in a family nucleus, about half are not married, less women are giving birth (relative to Gen X and baby boomers (1946–1964), and about 20% of millennial fathers are single parents, within a US context.
In almost three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global population in ample ways, inducing, in many, a sense of exhaustion caused by a prolonged state of health insecurity and socioeconomic changes associated with health policies in constant flux, such as mask mandates. Despite its health risks, COVID-19 is perceived by a younger US generation as a financial threat more than a health one. Cancel culture, in which negative events associated with an individual are emphasized, often through social media, dwarf their positive achievements, relegating them to a social shadow, is pronounced in US society, and increasingly so in academia, often associated with postpublication peer review, serving the purpose of both public shaming and accountability. A spike in fake news, pseudoscience, and misinformation-related COVID-19, including anti-vaccination lobbying, has come to dominate headlines, with calls on tech companies and governments to reign in this information plague. Issues related to gender equality and racial injustice are becoming more commonplace, and greater awareness in academia, including challenges to the status quo, is needed. Finally, and possibly most importantly, humanity lies at the precipice of an environmental catastrophe, with fluxes in climate, destabilized health, societies, economies, and ultimately, the planet's balance.
In 2020 and 2021, and to a lesser extent in 2022, which has been dominated by the Russo-Ukrainian war, COVID-19 eclipsed any and encompassed all, social, economic, and political topics. It is a distinct era, and born into this era are children who may encounter a world very different from that which existed in 2019, before this pandemic. Although some might wish to bracket these three years and possibly future coming years likely affected by COVID-19, as part of Generation Alpha (the early 2010s to mid-2020s, curiously overlapping with Gen Z), policymakers, health practitioners, and sociologists might consider Generation C (C = COVID-19) as a distinct generational entity.
There is always the possibility that some might object to associating a virus with a generation, in which case, to avoid stigmatization, Generation Kappa is suggested as an alternative.
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