The State of Young America: The Poll

The State of Young America: The Poll

November 2, 2011
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Young Invincibles and Demos commissioned a survey of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 to better capture their circumstances, their anxieties, and their ambitions. The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research and Consulting.  

From their responses comes an in-depth, firsthand look at how these Americans feel about their economic situation, their prospects for the future, and their aspirations of working hard and getting ahead.  

The poll results show a population of young Americans who are discouraged with their current economic standing, yet continue to hold out hope for their futures and express strong opinions about the way forward for their generation.  

Key Results

  • Just over half (53 percent) of young workers have seen earnings increases over the past four years, leaving 46 percent of the working population with stagnant or even decreasing earnings across the period. 
  • Latinos are the most frustrated with their personal financial situation (60 percent reported it as just fair or poor), followed by African Americans (55 percent) and whites (50 percent). 
  • Many young Americans are falling into personal debt.  Forty-two percent of those under age 35 have more than $5,000 in personal debt that does not include a mortgage. 
  • Among all young people who have seen their debt increase, school loans (42 percent), credit cards (35 percent), and medical bills (27 percent) are the most common kinds of increased debt. 
  • A full 71 percent of uninsured young adults said they were uninsured because they could not afford coverage, their employer did not offer health insurance, or they had been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. 
  • Recent reforms to the health care system have begun to reverse that trend, as 1 million young people under the age of 26 joined their parent's plan in the last quarter of 2010 and the first two quarters of 2011.
  • When asked what Congress’ top priorities should be, young Americans want them to focus on jobs, education, and on ensuring that Social Security is available for their generation. 
  • The continued economic slump has caused a delay in important life decisions and concerns about future family life.  Almost half (46 percent) have delayed purchasing a home, and nearly one-third of young people have delayed moving out on their own (33 percent) or starting a family (30 percent).  A quarter has delayed getting married (25 percent).  Minorities postponed these decisions with more frequency.
  • 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.