Sort by
Press release/statement

America's Young Adults Face Serious Economic Challenges, According to New Data Report and Opinion Poll Analysis

Demos and The Center for American Progress Publish New Studies

Washington, DC — Today's young adults are feeling the impact of a massive shift in the U.S. economy — changes that are documented in a new data report from Demos and an analysis of public opinion polling by The Center for American Progress. The studies were announced today with a press teleconference.

The Demos report, "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.

"Young people today are being hit by a one-two economic punch," said Tamara Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos and author of "The Economic State of Young America" and also a book entitled "Strapped: Why America's 20-and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead." "For this generation of young workers, the economy no longer generates widespread opportunity and security, and our public policies haven't evolved to pick up any of the slack. In fact, many of the problems we see today are a direct result of a disinvestment in the policies meant to ensure that the opportunity ladder is firmly in place."

The Center for American Progress study, "The Progressive Generation", provides an extensive examination of the economic views of young adults today, finding that on a wide range of economic issues, from taxes to government spending, and from healthcare to support for labor unions, young people today have decidedly progressive views.

"The Economic State of Young America" provides a portrait of the economic status of today's young adults, also broken down by race and gender--and offers policy solutions that Congress and state legislatures can act on. Findings in the report uncover:



  • Incomes have declined for most young workers: between 1975 and 2005, typical earnings for young men (25 to 34) with only a high school diploma fell by 29 percent while women's earnings declined by 10 percent. Typical earnings for young workers with some college fell 21 percent for men and 6 percent for women. Earnings for young workers with college degrees were flat among men, but rose 10 percent for women.
  • The rapid proliferation of debt: The average college graduate has nearly $20,000 in debt; average credit card debt has increased 47 percent between 1989 and 2004 for 25-to 34-year-olds and 11 percent for 18-to 24-year olds. Nearly one in five 18-to 24-year-olds is in "debt hardship," up from 12 percent in 1989.
  • Gaps in college access by race, income and gender: Compared to the previous generation, the percentage of young men with a bachelor's degree declined from 28 percent to 25 percent, while young women with a bachelor's degree increased from 20 percent to 32 percent. More young people in this generation are going to college, though gaps by income persist and gaps by race have actually widened.
  • Higher rents absorb more of young workers' incomes: In 1980, the average gross rent payment absorbed 22 percent of a 25-to 34-year-old's income; in 2006, it was 25 percent. The youngest adults experienced greater increases, rising from 26 percent in 1980 to 32 percent in 2006. More young people are considered "housing burdened"--paying more than 30 percent of pre-tax income on rent: in 2005, 43 percent of 25-to 34-year-olds spent more than one-third of their pre-tax income on rent, up from 18 percent in 1970.
  • Gains in homeownership were uneven: Since 1980, the percentage of young households (25- to 34-years-old) who own their homes increased from 53 to 56 percent for whites; increased from 35 to 36 percent for Latinos and declined from 31 percent to 26 percent for African Americans.
  • Economic challenges facing young families: Although more than half of women with a child under age one are in the labor force (up from 31 percent in 1976), public policy supports for young families are still lacking. Only 39 percent of women received paid maternity leave. Child care, the most common arrangement used by working mothers, remains largely unsubsidized and costly. Full-time care for a toddler ranges from $3,794 to $10,920 annually, while full-time care for an infant rages from $4,388 to $14,647 annually. In every region of the country, child care for two children exceeds the median rent, and is as high or higher than the median monthly mortgage payment.

"Young adults today think that the government can be a force for good in the economy, and that increased investments in healthcare, education, and other areas are necessary to ensure strong and sustainable economic growth. Millennials are more progressive than other age groups today and than previous generations when they were younger. The progressive economic views of this large and politically active generation of young adults is likely to have a profound impact in 2008 and into the future," said David Madland, Director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress and author of the new "Progressive Generation" report.

The "Progressive Generation" report finds that:

-- Millennials are more likely to support universal health coverage than any age group in the 30 previous years the question has been asked, with 57 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds saying that health insurance should come from a government insurance plan.

-- Eighty-seven percent of Millennials think the government should spend more money on health care even if a tax increase is required to pay for it, the highest level of support in the question's 20-year history.

-- An overwhelming 95 percent of Millennials think education spending should be increased even if a tax increase is required to pay for it, the highest level ever recorded on this question in the 20 years it has been asked.

-- Sixty-one percent of Millennials think the government should provide more services, the most support of any age group in any of the previous 20 years the question was asked.

-- Millennials are very supportive of labor unions, giving them an average ranking of 60 on a 0-to-100 scale (with 0 indicating a negative view and 100 being a positive view), the second-highest level of support of any age group in the over 40-year history of the question.

As part of its efforts to highlight the generational economic crisis, Demos invited all three remaining presidential candidates to answer a questionnaire about young adult economic concerns, to be distributed at an historic gathering of young activists on May 8 and 9 in Washington, DC: "A Better Deal: Reclaiming Economic Security for a New Generation."  To date, only Hillary Clinton for President has responded.  The questionnaires are available for download with "The Economic State of Young America" at The "Progressive Generation" is available for download at

Hard copies of the report and interviews with Demos and CAP experts can be requested, or can be obtained in person at "A Better Deal", a young voters economic issues conference in Washington, DC, on May 8-9.