Without More Investment in the Young, Middle Class Could Disappear

November 4, 2011 | | AFL-CIO Blog |

By virtually every measure, the fortunes of America’s young people are falling under a deluge of debt, shrinking opportunity, rising costs of living and lack of access to health care. Writing with members of the Young Invincibles think tank, the authors write:

 
The path that each young person takes during their young adulthood often largely determines whether they end up in the middle class as older adults. Given the nation’s current anemic levels of investment in young people, the existence of our future middle class is severely imperiled.
 
The Databook looks at the well-being of 18- to 34-year-olds across the span of a generation in such areas as income, higher education and family life. Notable among the findings is that as the business environment became increasingly hostile to unionization, the fortunes of young people fell. Today, the Databook tells us, only 10 percent of young people have union representation, compared with 20 percent in 1980. Consequently, with few exceptions, only those who have attained a bachelor’s degree have seen their incomes rise over the course of the past three decades. (Once exception would be those who find their way into a trade union apprenticeship.)