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Press release/statement

Historic Gathering of Young Activists in Washington D.C. to Address Economic Concerns Driving Youth Vote

Facing Lower Earnings, Higher Costs, and Crippling Debt Burdens, Young Voters Begin Movement for Economic Reforms

Washington DC — Young voters are turning out to the polls in record numbers, with new research and polling data showing that today's economic challenges are chief among their concerns. This Thursday and Friday, May 8th and 9th, nearly 200 young activists and leaders from around the country, and over two dozen youth and civic groups--including Rock the Vote, Campus Progress, The League of Young Voters, Young People For, Voto Latino, Black Youth Vote, The Student PIRGs & others--will gather at the Liaison Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for "A Better Deal: Reclaiming Economic Security for a New Generation" — a national conference sponsored by Demos — to address the growing economic plight of young voters.

The conference will bring together politically-engaged young adults, including community organizers, young elected officials, policy advocates, get-out-the-vote volunteers and others in a collective effort to elevate this generation's economic crisis onto the national agenda, to offer policy substance to sustain the rise in youth voting, and to forge partnerships for future reform efforts. Attendees will get the tools to connect politics to the personal financial struggles of young voters, and forge connections with others to build a movement for a better deal in their communities.

"This generation of young people are engaging in politics in a way we haven't seen for a long time," said Tamara Draut, Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, author of a new report, "The Economic State of Young America," and also a book entitled "Strapped: Why America's 20-and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead."  

"They are reeling from the effects of a decades-long retrenchment in the investments and public policies that helped previous generations work or educate their way into the middle class. This conference is the first step in building a sustained movement of young people to repair our social contract and build a better future."

"A Better Deal" will feature special keynotes by Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher of "The Nation," and Andy Stern, President of Service Employees International Union, along with presentations by Maria Teresa Petersen, Executive Director of Voto Latino, Heather Smith, Executive Director of Rock the Vote, and Tamara Draut, as well as a number of experts and advocates from across the country. 

Panels will cover a range of topics, including:

-- The quality of jobs available to young adults in the New Economy, comparing wages, job security, unionization and benefits to the jobs that sustained previous generations; 

-- The rise of personal debt among young adults, discussing new financial pressures, culture and lending industry practices that have played a role; 

-- Issues of higher education access and affordability, examining the widening racial gap in higher education and the drivers behind skyrocketing tuitions and student debt; and

-- Strategies for mobilizing the power of young voters and dealing with obstacles to moving a young adult economic agenda.

The economic concerns driving the youth vote to be discussed at the conference are highlighted in a new accompanying Demos report, "The Economic State of Young America," released yesterday.

The report shows that the combination of declining incomes over the past 30 years, growing debt, gaps in college access by race, income and gender, and high costs of education, homeownership and healthcare together have made this the first generation to not surpass the living standards of their parents.

Additional research to be discussed includes a new analysis of public opinion polling of young voter attitudes about the economy published by the Center for American Progress, as well as questionnaires sent to presidential candidates about what candidates will do to address the increasing economic burden of today's emerging generation.

"The Economic State of Young America" and the presidential candidate questionnaires are available for download at 

The Center for American Progress Survey, "Progressive Generation," is available for download at  

Hard copies of the report and interviews with Demos and CAP experts, as well as interviews with conference attendees, can be requested or can be obtained in person at the conference.