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The State of Multiculturalism in America Today: A New Mandate


The past few years have put a spotlight on personal and professional commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, highlighting the many ways in which society needs to evolve to better serve the collective good. In pursuit of a better understanding of the state of multiculturalism in America today, Zeno partnered with EGAMI Group to conduct an in-depth study of more than 6,000 Americans to uncover how different multicultural communities feel about their lives and their futures, and how their evolving values illustrate the challenges and opportunities inherent in both these groups. I believe what we discovered will provide a dramatically altered view of how companies/brands and employers should engage with these individuals today to create a more inclusive world. 

We not only discovered new rules of engagement for many multicultural groups, but also a growing generation of individuals who identify as two or more ethnicities, “multiethnic.” This is one of the fastest growing and youngest segments in the U.S., and has grown 4 times in the last decade, now representing more than 10% of the population. We named this group, “Generation Self-Defined,” as they are redefining the paradigm when it comes to identity and its relationship to a more inclusive world. This group both celebrates their nuanced, complex, and powerful identities, while also over-indexing as a generation on values such as: Social Responsibility, Empathy, and Activism – a generation dedicated to the betterment of society (“social responsibility”), understanding and sharing the struggles / feelings of other groups of people (“empathy”) while forging a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future for all (“activism”). 

Often miscategorized or left out altogether, only half of the multiethnic respondents included in our study said they feel extremely or very understood or accepted by society today. Gen Z makes up the largest percentage of Generation Self-Defined, but despite the pride and joy they display in highlighting their multiethnic identities, there is still significant improvement needed when it comes to social tolerance and authentic representation by companies and brands. In fact, these individuals are often forced to “pick a side,” as they don’t feel a sense of belonging with any one group.

However, “Generation Self-Defined” is optimistic about the future and wants to see real progress – the days of performative allyship are over. It is up to us to authentically Engage and Empower this generation, to Uplift them and Listen to them, and to Partner with them and Help them realize their incredible potential to inspire and drive positive change in the world.  

For marketers who are still navigating an effective multicultural communications strategy, the rules are about to change again in a major and disruptive way. Our findings provide a stronger understanding of how to authentically connect with this younger group of individuals.

Based on the research findings from both traditional multicultural groups as well as a younger, multiethnic cohort, we established a set of key takeaways - a new mandate - that will provide a clear lens through which to view the increasingly multi-layered and complex identity of this influential and growing group of people in the United States.

Our mandate states the following: 

  • Embrace Culture: Connect via authentic acknowledgement, respect and engagement through legacy and new cultural traditions. Gen Z are “identity nomads” who routinely experiment with different modes of self-expression and ways of defining themselves. 63% of Gen Z say their identity has changed over the course of their lives. The value of empathy and social responsibility paint a picture of a generation determined to create community and unity toward the betterment of all people. 

  • Celebrate Individualism: Develop platforms that provide diverse cultural expressions; there is no one-size-fits-all definition of identity. Sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, and differing outlooks on the world are now interwoven into the fabric of individual identity alongside traditional signifiers such as race and culture. Companies and brands must dive deep beneath the surface to explore all points of intersection. 

  • Listen to Social Voices: Understand how social issues impact the lives of various segments of the population to provide relevant solutions. While differences exist across communities and individuals throughout the country, there are fundamental values, hopes and fears that are shared by many, including the multiethnic audience. Multicultural values shine a light on insightful patterns and trends in how different audiences view the world. 

  • Create Space for New Thinking: True innovation and progress will only be achieved through a diversity of thought and new ideas. While there has been progress in engaging all multicultural groups within media-centric industries (beauty, sports, media/entertainment, fashion) there is significant work and representation needed in more vital-to-life industries such as the healthcare, government, education and banking sectors. 

When you initiate a dialogue with 6,000 people who feel misunderstood and under-represented in society, you gain a clear picture of how current DE&I efforts need to evolve to better meet the changing needs of all multicultural groups. And while requiring new, bold thinking from CCOs, CMOs, and CEOs, those companies that lead the way in authentically engaging with and sharing the values of these groups will be rewarded with what our research shows to be a vibrant, loyal, and rapidly growing consumer base. These companies will also earn a platform and license to partner with Generation Self-Defined that represents the future of this country in building a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable future for all of us. 

If you would like more information about "The Multicultural Mandate 2023” please reach out to

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