Talk of generational differences is everywhere these days. As a new generation enters adulthood and the workforce, conversations around their habits and decision-making dominate our news cycle. The stories have certainly caught our attention. In the upcoming 2024 Gulf South Index by The Ehrhardt Group and Causeway Solutions, we break down how the generational divide is playing out in the Gulf South today.

1. How Are We Feeling?

The Gulf South Index team has always been interested in how people, both in the Gulf South and nationally, are feeling about their lot in life – and since 2020, we’ve seen a lot of fluctuation. Furthermore, optimism levels and hope for the future vary greatly between the different generations.

When asked about 2024, Millennials in the Gulf South showed the most optimism for the year ahead at 51%. In fact, they were the only generation where over 50% are more optimistic for the year. The youngest adults, Generation Z, came in at 45%. Baby Boomers aren’t so confident – 32% are less optimistic about the coming year and 41% believe it will be about the same.

However… Baby Boomers in the Gulf South remain resiliently confident in the American Dream – 50% believe it can still be achieved here. Generation Z are the least optimistic with only 35% saying it’s achievable and 42% are unsure – a trend that might reflect a sense of unease in our newest adults in the Gulf South. In another national study, Gallup reports that one in four Gen Z’ers consider themselves very happy. Although they might not have confidence in the future, they are still feeling okay in the now.


2. A New Workforce

The oldest of Generation Z is currently 27. They are not the new kids on the block anymore, having had a presence in the workplace for several years now. And although they might still be a smaller faction, their early years have seen seismic shifts in the workplace – remote work, artificial intelligence, a constantly evolving job market – and they are feeling the impact.

“Quiet quitting,” a trend popularized in 2023, implores employees to put the bare minimum in at work with minimal extra effort, and is increasingly popular among Gen Z. According to Morning Consult, Gen Z adults are 7% less likely than the average adult to feel engaged at work. Only 36% define themselves as “very engaged.” This new generation seems to be less motivated to establish themselves in the workplace than those who came before them.

But, why? As Morning Consult also notes, social media influence and conversations around work life and expectations may be contributing to their engagement – a factor that hasn’t had to be considered in past generations. Lower engagement levels could also be impacted by remote work statistics, a trend that peaked during their first years in the workforce. But like other generations before them, lower engagement could be contributed to a lack of opportunities in their desired fields, leading to less motivation to move up.

Cause or Effect: It’s clear Gen Z is shaking things up for themselves. In the 2024 Gulf South Index, 24% of Gulf South Gen Z’ers reported losing a job in the past two years, and 26% nationally. Although one could argue “quiet quitting” to be a motivating factor in this, there are other explanations to explore. Gen Z is feeling the hurt of losing a job more than most, potentially leading to a loss in motivation and less prioritization of their careers.


3. We’re (Still) Not All That Different

Another perennial theme in our years of Gulf South research shows that for all our differences, the Gulf South and national respondents still have more in common than we might think. The same can be said across the generations, though it might be in different ways than what one would expect.

Old Is the New Young: While Gen Z and Millennials might have differing views on life and work than their older counterparts, they are big fans of their hobbies. According to recent reports by Axios, Gen Z is sleeping more and leading a bit of a jazz music renaissance (good news for us New Orleanians!). They are also drinking less, while Millennials flock to couponing and book clubs – the latter of which saw a 24% event listings increase in early 2024.

This is not a coincidence, as HubSpot notes, “Millennials and Gen Z’ers — burnt out from the pandemic, a dicey job market and high cost of living — are increasingly dipping their toes into a more mature lifestyle.” Many of these hobbies are discovered through social media trends, especially on sites like TikTok – which 52% of Millennials and 48% of Gen Z’ers in the Gulf South use regularly. Furthermore, 45% and 47% of the same respective groups have bought a product or service based on an influencer recommendation.

And in the Gulf South… we have our own share of similarities to balance our differences. More than 70% of each generation believe family to be important, and more than 60% feel the same about their communities. No matter what else we deem to be valuable, we all agree on the importance of those closest to us.


Generational comparisons are nothing new. Undoubtedly, we will have this conversation again in a few years when Gen Alpha joins the workforce. These discussions tend to revolve around our differences, and we certainly have them. It is far more interesting to use this information to learn about and better understand one another.

Marc Ehrhardt
The Ehrhardt Group