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Young people today have weathered the Great Recession, the birth of the smartphone and the aftereffects of globalization.
And their attitudes toward work reflect those experiences, according to new research by the National Society of High School Scholars, an international academic honor association.
Some 16,000 high-achieving college and high school students were interviewed this spring.
There are more than 60 million members of Gen Z, those born between 1996 and 2004, and they will soon be flooding the workforce.
Expectations for their jobs are high, the research found.
More than 75 percent of them anticipate going to graduate school and want to be working in a related and meaningful field within six months of graduation.
They prioritize a healthy work-life balance and want to be fulfilled when they are on the job.
The study warns that employers might find it difficult to realize this generation's idealism in the office.
The 2008 financial crisis along with a crushing load of student debt for many has triggered a financial pragmatism: more than half of respondents plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s, according to the research.
These young people are increasingly preoccupied with social justice and activism, and commonly engaged in movements including #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and #climate change.
More than 80 percent say they plan to be somewhat or very involved in politics in the coming years, and nearly all respondents over the age of 18 say they plan to vote in the next presidential election. What's more, 10 percent say they want to work for the government, and they most desired positions are in the FBI, CIA and Centers for Disease Control.