Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Desperate economic straits of a lost generation

As a CNN commentator smirked and mugged, a young lady she was interviewing tried to explain that the #OccupyWallSt protesters face economic challenges unknown to any other generation since the Great Depression. The television pundit continued to insist that the occupation movement has no clear issues, goals or leadership, despite the fact that the woman she was interviewing had stopped Bank of America from charging a $5 fee for use of debit cards with a petition circulated online that garnered 300,000 signatures. This report was issued just today. - The Legendary

Today, Young Invincibles and Demos released a report called, “State of Young America” (SOYA). SOYA provides a look at both the economic challenges facing young adults since the Great Recession, and longer-term trends that have been going on for decades. The report combines important facts comparing our generation to our parent’s, polling results, and stories from young people around the country.

We decided to embark on the State of Young America project because we know that our generation has the potential to be the next Greatest Generation. Young adults today are the most innovative and entrepreneurial demographic in the history of our country, and are responsible for many of our modern technological advancements. We are civic-minded and when asked in the poll, we value education and hard work as the ways to get ahead. But while 69% of young adults still believe the American Dream is achievable for their generation, economic barriers are currently holding us back.

As SOYA details, there are many reasons to worry about the future of our country.

Young people’s wages continue to drop, and costs for basic necessities such as health care, child care, and housing are becoming out of reach for too many. 30% of young people now say they are delaying a family due to the economy, and 48% think their generation will be worse off than their parents. To explain these alarming trends, SOYA is organized into five key chapters: jobs and the economy, health care, higher education, cost of living, and raising a family.

The report’s first chapter, Jobs and the Economy, explores how long-term trends and the current tumultuous economic environment have taken a toll on young Americans’ employment prospects, paychecks, and ultimately their earnings for years to come. Unemployment and underemployment rates for young Americans remain dangerously high, and almost 60 percent of employed young people say they would like to work more hours. At the same time, there is also a clear wage pay gap, gender pay gap, and education pay gap. Here are some more stats that speak to the growing inequality and declining wages that our generation confronts:

o 14% of 25-34 year olds with a high school degree are unemployed, while 5% with a 4-year degree are unemployed.
o In 1980, a young man with a bachelor’s degree earned roughly $9,100 more than a young man with a high school degree. Today, he earns $20,000 more.
o Among 18-24 year olds, 1 out of 4 African-American women, 1 out of 3 African-American men, and 1 out of 5 Latinos are unemployed.
o Between 1980 and 2010, typical earnings for young men working full-time fell by 10%.

Only workers with at least a bachelor’s degree experienced substantial increases in earnings over the last generation, making it clear that in today’s economy higher education or training is essential to economic success. For more on the importance of education and barriers to a degree, check out our blog on the education section of SOYA tomorrow!

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