In defense of Millennials

OPINION

October 03, 2013|By Megan Crepeau, @crepeau | RedEye

At this point, I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

Millennials are entitled. We’re selfish. We’re lazy and yet also somehow too competitive. We all live in our mothers’ basements and refuse to leave. We want too much praise. No matter how much we’re yelled at, we won't get off their lawns.

But now, we youngsters can disprove that. With NUMBERS!

“Failure to Launch,” a new study from Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, lays it out like this: “The truth is that today’s generation of young people is more educated than ever and the problems they are facing are exogenous—due to structural changes in the economy and cyclical factors—and the fact that the younger generations tend to suffer more in recessions. In other words, it is both unfair and mistaken to place the blame for young people’s economic woes solely at their feet.”

So that sneaking feeling that you got screwed? Yeah, that’s legit.

Think about this: In 1980, the age at which people started making the national median wage was 26. In 2010, it took until age 30.

Now let’s compare the study’s numbers on two specific age groups: those ages 55-64 to those 35 and younger. In 1984, the older groups had 13 times more money than the younger group. By 2009, that gap had stretched—older people made 44 times as much as those 35 and younger.

And plenty of Millennials aren’t employed at all. Rather than the unemployment rate, let’s look at labor force participation—the percentage of people who are actively in the labor force. For men 18-24, that percentage has been trending down pretty steadily since 1980. But between 2000 and 2012, labor force participation declined at nearly triple the rate as it had in the past 20 years.

I probably don’t have to keep going. You all know the deal. We, as a generation, are not in awesome shape—and it’s not our fault.

We got hit with two recessions in a row (the smallish one in 2001 and the big kahuna in 2007) that led to youth unemployment levels “not seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting data,” according to Georgetown. Blue-collar jobs, which generally paid well and were more stable, have been declining in favor of unstable, lower-wage service-industry jobs. It’s harder to get credit. We just plain don’t have the kinds of opportunity that past generations did.

I know it’s small comfort, but if you’re struggling in this economy, it’s not totally your fault.

mcrepeau@tribune.com

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