Latinos and members of “MillZ”—young adults in the millennial generation and Generation Z—closely align in heightened environmental concerns, according to new research from the UMD Department of Government and Politics that shows how social identity, along with party affiliation, is key to understanding attitudes on climate change. 

The study by Associate Professor Stella Rouse and co-author Assistant Professor Ashley Ross from Texas A&M University at Galveston is the first to establish the MillZ generation as a meaningful, measurable identity. The results, published this month in the journal Political Behavior, show that although Latino and MillZ identities don’t perfectly overlap, they are essentially interchangeable when it comes to climate change issues: strong attachment to one identity is sufficient to induce concern even when attachment to the other is weak. 

“The stakes are high for both of these groups on the issue of climate change,” said Rouse, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at UMD. “Latinos have greater health and economic problems related to the environment, and young people will disproportionately bear the burden of climate change due to current environmental behavior and policies.” 

To explore the interplay of the two identities, Rouse and Ross conducted an original national survey of 1,529 respondents in late 2019. Participants were asked about the personal importance of climate change and how strongly they affiliated with either group identity. 

The millennial generation, which includes people born between 1981 and 1996, is now the largest age cohort in the U.S. Nearly half (46%) of Latinos are either millennials or part of Generation Z, which encompasses Americans born after 1996, the youngest group of voters. 

It’s likely both identities affect attitudes across a wider range of issues than just climate change, the authors say. 

“Millennials and Gen-Zers are the most diverse generations in U.S. history, and Latinos disproportionately comprise a large percentage of both groups,” said Rouse, author of the book The Politics of Millennials. “These findings point to the importance of examining multiple and overlapping social identities beyond simple party affiliation in order to better comprehend factors that influence political attitudes among the American electorate.”