Demos Releases New Data Analysis & Polling: The Economic State Of Young America

Release Date: 
November 2, 2011

NEW YORK-- Today's 20-somethings are the first generation, as a whole, to face downward economic mobility compared to their parents' generation, according to a new report from national policy center Demos and youth advocacy organization Young Invincibles. The report, entitled "The State of Young America," details how the Great Recession has intensified the impact of thirty years of negative economic trends across young Americans' lives, starting with an analysis of wages: Almost all young people make less than the previous generation at the same age, with young men making $.90 for each dollar their fathers earned, and those with only a high school diploma far less.

 
The release also includes compelling results from an exclusive national poll of young people, conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research & Consulting.  The poll shows how a plurality (48 percent) believe that Millenials may be worse off than their parents and 68 percent believe it is harder to make ends meet since the Great Recession, while 69 percent still believe the American Dream is achievable for their generation.
 
"The State of Young America" also includes policy recommendations from Demos and first-hand accounts of struggling young Americans that illuminate the stories behind the troubling data findings.
 
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Key Facts from "The State of Young America" Report:
 
--In 1980, young workers with a bachelor's degree earned roughly $9,000 more than young workers with only a high school diploma. Today, they earn nearly $20,000 more. Meanwhile, earnings among young men who work full-time have fallen as a whole, while women posted modest gains over the last 30 years.
 
--Young women today make $1.17 for every $1.00 their moms earned in 1980 – a gain primarily attributed to more steady employment, longer hours and greater career opportunities. Young men on the other hand earn 10 percent less than their dads did in 1980, with significant declines among young men without 4-year degrees.
 
--In 2010, nearly two years after the Great Recession, the youngest workers (18-24) still face high levels of joblessness (17.3 percent), particularly among African Americans (28.8 percent) and Latinos (20.1 percent). Unemployment rates are still in the double digits among 25-34 year olds who do not have 4-year college degrees. As a result, unlike other age groups, the percentage of young people who are employed is at its lowest level in the past 30 years.
 
--The percent of young adults 18-34 who were uninsured in 2009 is more than twice as high as the share of older adults without insurance. Half of all Hispanic young people have no health insurance.
 
--Average tuition is three times higher today than in 1980, and two out of three students graduate with student loan debt, at an average of over $24,000.
 
--African American students are more likely to take out student loans, and to graduate with higher debt levels.
 
--In 1980, 21% of young women had a bachelor's degree or higher.  Today, it is 37%.
 
Key Facts from the National Poll:
 
--Three in four young people are concerned that the middle class is disappearing, and more than half of those say it concerns them a great deal or a lot.
 
-Among young people who are working, 57 percent would like more hours for more pay including almost two-thirds of those under age 25 (63 percent) and more than half of those ages 25 to 34 (55 percent).
 
--38 percent report delaying starting or continuing education or training because of the economy.
 
--More than half of Latinos and more than a third of African Americans reported stagnant or declining wages over the last four years.
 
--One-third of young people rank simply making ends meet a "10" on a scale of zero to 10 when describing their level of concern.
 
 
"Even before the Great Recession, this generation faced a mountain of obstacles on the path to economic security," said Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Programs at Demos and author of the book, Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead. "After thirty years of misguided policies, from disinvestment in education to destabilizing tax cuts, today's generation of young people are coming of age in a political and economic system that is no longer providing pathways into the middle class. It used to be that hard work and education were the pathways to the middle class, but today's 'debt-for-diploma' system and the lack of good jobs seriously undercuts this generation's ability to recreate the prosperity and mobility that their baby boomer parents experienced."
 
“Our generation is starting off from a vastly different and more challenging playing field compared to our parents or even 15 years ago, due to the Recession and long-term trends,” said Aaron Smith, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Young Invincibles.  “Indeed, almost half of us say that we will be worse off than our parent's generation.  But our generation, which has such tremendous potential, also holds out hope that we can address our challenges, from the cost of higher education to creating decent jobs.  That was part of the reason why Young Invincibles got started, because we as young adults saw the great challenges in health care but believed that our action could create positive change.  That potential for change is ultimately why 69 percent of young adults still believe our generation can achieve the American Dream.”
 
For more information about "The State of Young America" report and the national poll please see the contact information above. Tamara Draut and Aaron Smith are available for comment.
 
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