Young people, post recession: Ready to launch?

Post-recession data and the government's pro-elderly policies don't give much hope to Millennials. Yet they remain surprisingly optimistic.

Brian Snyder/REUTERS/Files
A young worker does quality checks on razor blades manufactured at Gillette's factory in Boston in Dec. 2011. .

It may be getting really old to be young in America.

That is in large part because of the lingering aftereffects of the Great Recession on people who are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to recent data.

More than a quarter of that group, for example, now live with a parent. During the recession, young people’s income took the biggest hit. Half of them now have jobs simply to pay the bills, not as a career choice. And for college grads with a student loan, the average debt is $27,200.

And this week Congress further depleted the future solvency of Social Security by moving to extend a cut in the payroll tax. President Obama’s budget, meanwhile, is heavily weighted toward spending on the elderly and their entitlements, and Congress will likely go along with that. And over the next decade, the federal debt will grow 68 percent to $19.5 trillion under the Obama budget, leaving a heavy burden for future generations.

No wonder voter turnout among young people is expected to return to its historic low rates in the 2012 election. One reason, according to the Pew Center on the States, is the disorderly waythat states register voters, especially mobile people like students and other young people. Nearly a quarter of people who are eligible to vote are not registered.

Despite these problems, it is surprising how optimistic young people remain. Nearly 9 in 10 say they either have or earn enough money now or expect they will in the future, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The recession has not diminished their job satisfaction.

They are very realistic about owning a home – only 12 percent of white young people say it is important. They realize the importance of training in order to be competitive in the workplace. The share of young adults enrolled in high school or college is at a record high. And parents are more supportive than in the past decades in providing a financial backstop to their young-adult children.

A generation that came of age during the worst recession since the 1930s is also America’s most educated. They are settling into different patterns of life and work, based on clear-eyed economics.

Three-fourths of those under 45, for example, do not expect Medicare to provide benefits for them, according to a New York Times poll. More than two-thirds of that group believe Social Security will not be available for them. Such attitudes set up higher rates of savings and investment for the future, in a spirit of personal independence.

Here’s the best clue: More than half of 18-to-34-year-olds say being a parent is “one of the most important things” in their lives. With that kind of hope, maybe being young isn’t getting old quite yet.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.