Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30- Something's Can't Get Ahead by Tamara Draut

Release Date: 
January 17, 2006

New York, NY — Today marks the release of a groundbreaking new book; STRAPPED: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead (Doubleday; On-Sale January 17, 2006), written by Tamara Draut, Economic Opportunity Director at Demos.

In STRAPPED, Draut takes a hard look at why 60 percent of adults between ages 18 and 34 are struggling for financial independence. Astronomical student debts, depressed wages, rising healthcare costs and soaring property values are just a few reasons why an entire generation of young people cannot overcome their crippling financial situation. The book offers profiles of a cross-section of young America — from young parents and part-time students to multiple degree seekers and those entering the work force in a post 9/11 world and connects the dots between various social and economic trends and adverse government policies over the last 30 years.

Here is a look at the numbers from STRAPPED :

Higher and Higher Education

Inflation-adjusted tuition at public universities has nearly tripled since 1980. Thirty years ago, the average cost of attending a private college in 1976-77 was $12,837 annually, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, the average cost of attending a public university is $11,354 — which means the burden of affording a state college today is equivalent to that of paying for a private college in the 1970s.

Paycheck Paralysis

In 1972, the typical 25-34 year old male with a high school degree earned just over $42,000, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, they'll earn just over $29,000.

Generation Debt

The rise in credit card debt combined with the massive student loan debt means that 25 cents of every dollar in income goes to paying off debt. Because only about half of this age group are homeowners, for many that 25 cents is all going to non-mortgage debt: primarily student loans, car loans and credit cards.

High Cost of Putting a Roof Over Your Head

The Northeast and West, along with other major metro areas like Chicago, are fast becoming middle-class free zones: median home prices in Sacramento doubled to $258,000 between 1997 and 2002; Seattle, $260,000, an increase of 42 percent; Boston, $413,500.

Family and Work

Today, 61 percent of mothers with children under the age of three are in the workforce-up from 40 percent in the 1960s. The average cost of child care is over $6,000 per year, per child.

As a leading young commentator for her generation, Tamara Draut argues that it is not too late for this state of affairs to change course.

Among Draut's proposed solutions are:

* a Contract for College mentality (shifting federal financial aid away from a loan structure to a grant structure);
* a Career-Ladder program (more apprenticeships in fields such as health and teaching and other similar industries to help facilitate young people moving into better-paying positions);
* a Spread-the-Wealth incentive plan (a federally matched savings program geared towards youngsters and low-income families to save for down payments on housing)
* and a Borrower's Security Act (legislation to stop the most egregious and abusive lending practices of the credit card industry, which include aggressive solicitation on college campuses).

Draut hopes that progressive ideas like these combined with better engaging 20- and 30-somethings in the political process so they can institutionalize and protect their own future is the best way to get what has been dubbed "generation broke" out of debt and back on track. STRAPPED is sure to jump start the national conversation about where this country is failing our youth economically-and how we can make it right again.

Tamara Draut is the director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, a national, non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization headquartered in New York. Her research and writing have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, and Newsweek. Draut has appeared on NBC News Today Show, CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight and Headline News, CNBC's Closing Bell, and Reuters Television.

For more information about STRAPPED: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead, visit archive.demos.org and www.strappedthebook.com

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