Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance
Among adults the news isn’t good, either. And particularly not for those youngish-but-no-longer-young adults who came into this crisis already vulnerable, already fragile, already over-indebted and underpaid. The Millennials were left with scars during the Great Recession that never quite healed, and inherited an economy structured to manufacture precarity for the young and the poor and black and brown, and to perpetuate wealth for the old and the rich and white.For the most part, kids of the 1980s and 1990s did it right: They avoided drugs and alcohol as adolescents. They went to college in record numbers. They sought stable, meaningful jobs and stable, meaningful careers. A lot of good that did. Studies have shown that young workers entering the labor force in a recession—as millions of Millennials did—absorb large initial earnings losses that take years and years to fade. Every 1-percentage-point bump in the unemployment rate costs new graduates 7 percent of their earnings at the start of their careers, and 2 percent of their earnings nearly two decades later. The effects are particularly acute for workers with less educational attainment; those who are least advantaged to begin with are consigned to permanently lower wages.
For Millennials, it feels like there is never any good news at all.
STEVN WILLIAMS says
Thank you for your thoughtful article. As the parent of three daughters born in the early 1990s I pay special attention to stories about their current and future economic prospects. I agree with much of what you have to say and since all three girls attended college the increased costs are a particularly sore point. However, what I rarely seen pointed out in articles like yours is the partial responsibility millennials bear for those increased costs. Granted, many colleges and universities have greatly expanded the number of questionable majors offered and physical building programs have exploded while student populations have remained stagnant or shrunk. What has been absent in the national debate has been a focus on selecting an affordable institution rather than granting Ivy League and big name state universities a aura of desirability that the student loan balances I read about just can’t justify. I rarely see community colleges mentioned as an alternative yet a student who spends a fraction of the cost of a four year university at the CC for the first two years still graduates with same diploma as the student who spent their entire four years at University. My oldest daughter did that and graduated with her BS and almost no student loans. All three girls lived in off campus housing that was far better than anyplace I lived in during college, yet their apartments and houses paled in comparison to where many of their millennial classmates lived, especially the ones who insisted they couldn’t possible share a bedroom or live in a complex without its own pool, gym and unlimited tanning room.
I also don’t understand why your article and most of the others don’t even mention military service as a way to pay for advanced education. The GI Bill is much more flexible now than ever, includes a more realistic housing allowance and under certain circumstances can be shared with children and spouses. That partly explains how my other daughters graduated with bachelors degrees and relatively low student debt. One is even considering joining the Army to earn money for her post-graduate degree.
I served with dozens of soldiers, sailors and airmen who joined the reserve components after earning their degrees as a way to pay off their students loans. They pursued their civilian careers, served their country and erased their student debt all at the same time. I consider that much more honest way to pay of debts than expecting a government handout. The U.S. military is also the most diverse institution in America as well, open to everyone who is physically qualified independent and under the age of 40 regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual preference.
You are spot on that the timing of the Great Recession and Coronavirus epidemic hit Millennials particularly hard, but I think that there are a lot of missed opportunities that we as a society should focus on as well.