Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 04:18:14 AM EST
An interesting link was recently posted in the Salon that captured something that is very rarely discussed in the US media. The notion that for young workers, this is a lost decade resonates strongly with my personal experience.
I'm a 30 year-old American who has been in the workforce since 1998. Everything in that article rings as absolutely true.
Speaking entirely for my age group (and anecdotally but with education):
- Most people continue to live with their families after age 18. They either stay home for a 1-3 years while attending local community colleges/state schools or stay home while working to earn enough to move out on their own. In the parts of the country with lower cost of living this is on the lower end and in almost all cities this is on the higher end. It appears to me that this has become even more common in the years since I left home.
- For those who move away to attend 4-year colleges easily 50% spend at least 6 months back home with their family immediately after school. Others "helicopter" back home for 6-18 months at some point within the next 3-4 years, usually after a city relocation or job goes bust and they need some time to get back on their feet.
- Earnings, on average, have not improved at all in the past 10 years. Someone who is working a good job, with years of experience and with actual responsiblities is making basically the same amount of money they made 10 years ago and often slightly less when adjusted for inflation. It is a small percentage, 10-20%, who have seen the kind of income growth one might've expected in previous generations.
- Job stability is very low. Since 1998 I have worked in six different jobs, all "professional" by nature. I have rarely seen people promoted up the ranks in any meaningful way. In the US you typically leave your position for another company if you want a significant promotion or a meaningful raise (ie more than inflation).
- Outside of cities/regions with declining populations and the South there is little expectation of home ownership. The majority of people under 35 who purchase property are doing so with family assistance. Most people, even educated, reasonably successful professionals with years of work experience cannot afford a 2br apartment of their own to rent or even a 1br in cities (LA/NYC/SF/DC) where salaries are better.
- Most people with college degrees have at least 20k in student loan debt and 5-10k in credit card debt.
All of these realities crystallize and are key drivers for the opinion trends you find in political surveys and last year's elections.
- Younger people are concerned about health insurance because they can't rely on their employers to provide it.
- They have little expectation of being "in charge" at work (or particularly well-paid) and instead tend to seek out work that is more fulfilling as consolation.
- They don't feel they are represented at all by the political establishment. There are no decisions made politically in the US that seem to benefit us in anyway. Obama at least paid lip service to this hence his massive victory in my age group.
- The banks/corporate CEO's and other villains are stand-ins for many people for the Baby Boomer generation. Their living standard is much higher on the whole and they are everybody's boss.
It strikes me as strange that many people's parents/that generation is willing to give the younger people hand-outs (paying their rent, car insurance, etc, well into the 20's) but not willing to give them the opportunity to earn it on their own.
Anyone who can do math can see that their living standard will be much lower than that of their parents generation. I think the lack of economic opportunity is a huge reason why they are so interested in public service, political activism, climate change/green living and other ways to make an impact in their society. They simply feel there is no other way to make a mark.