Study: Youth attitudes in Great Recession shift toward helping one another
Great Recession youth are shifting their beliefs, says a new study. Despite media stories that lambast this generation with claims of narcissism, young people are thinking more about others than in generations past.
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Miller, the 25-year-old whose dad was laid off, left Ohio when he couldn't find work there in his field, electrical engineering. He moved to Alexandria, Va., after finding a government contracting job. But he recently decided to take a chance on a new company that's using "smart technology" to help big corporations cut electrical usage for lighting their spaces.Skip to next paragraph
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Though it meant taking a small pay cut, he says having a job that helps the environment was a "huge" motivator.
It remains to be seen, however, how members of this generation will cope with this economic adversity.
Brent Donnellan, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, has found that how parents handle the stress of an economic situation affects a child's resilience. But so does the child's personality. Perhaps not surprisingly, Donnellan says, studies have found that young people who have more self-control and who do well in school tend to weather economic hardship better.
Still others wonder if the shifts in attitudes noted in the study will last.
Lane Kenworthy, who's looked at the impact of various recessions, isn't so sure.
"In almost every case, public opinion has roughly gone back right back to what it was before," says Kenworthy, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of Arizona, who co-wrote a chapter on this topic for a book titled "The Great Recession."
The biggest exception, he says, is the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment rose as high as 25 percent.
That major economic downturn saw a big shift toward the Democratic party, he says, and an embracing of government programs such as Social Security.
The downturn of the 1970s — which caused public opinion to sway Republican — was the only other noteworthy exception he found, he says.
Kenworthy says this recession might impact young people more because they tend to be more impressionable than their elders. But he says a lot will hinge on how long the economic downturn lasts — and how deeply they feel the pain.
Miller, in Virginia, says he still sees a lot of his peers living beyond their means and that worries him.
"I hope that mentality will change to say, 'Hey, we have to plan ahead' because this could happen again," he says.
But Monica Raofpur, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, doubts the Great Recession will forever change her generation.
"People usually adapt to their surroundings and make decisions based on what is going on in the present, not in the past," says Raofpur, a sales consultant in the tech industry.
The UCLA/San Diego State study was funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, which focuses social issues and has funded several projects related to the Great Recession.
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