The Economic State of Young America

The Economic State of Young America

May 6, 2008
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The Economic State of Young America is a comprehensive databook offering proof that a combination of declining incomes, growing debt, and high costs of education, homeownership and healthcare are conspiring to make this generation the first to not surpass the living standards of their parents. The report examines the financial condition of today's young adults across key economic indicators, including jobs and income, debt and savings, college access and attainment, and housing affordability.

TOP FACTS:

Jobs and income:

  • Among young workers without college degrees, the incomes of young women have remained relatively flat, while the incomes of young men have declined considerably.
  • Young males with no education beyond high school are earning 29 percent less than they did in 1975, with non-college educated young African-American men experiencing the steepest drop in incomes and the greatest decline in their labor force participation
  • Young workers, particularly those without college degrees, are much less likely to have health insurance from their employer compared to a generation ago

Debt and Savings:

  • Two-thirds of students borrow money to pay for college, up from just under half in 1993, graduating college with an average student debt of $19,200

College Access and Attainment:  

  • Today’s 20- and 30-somethings are relying more on credit cards to cover basic living expenses, particularly during those first few years in the workplace.
  • Since 1980, tuition at public 4-year universities has more than doubled, after adjusting for inflation.
  • The growing disparity between enrollments and degree completion is occurring during a time when academic preparation for college has steadily risen among low-income students.
  • The rising cost of housing helps explain why, compared to a generation ago, higher percentages of young people are considered “housing burdened”—defined as spending more than 30 percent of pre-tax income on rent or a mortgage.
  • Wide gaps in homeownership by race have persisted over a generation. While 53 percent of whites age 25 to 34 owned a home, only 26 percent of African Americans and 36 percent of Latinos owned their home.

Raising a Family:

  • Forty-five percent of U.S. workers do not qualify for The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child.
  • Child care is one of the biggest expenses in a young family’s household budget, often second only to housing payments