Raleigh — North Carolina's young adults will continue to face a tough economy--one ravaged not only by recession but also by 30 years of declining opportunity and security for all but the most highly educated and affluent, according to a new report by Demos and the North Carolina Justice Center.
The report, Building North Carolina's Future Middle Class: Addressing the Challenges Facing Young Adults, demonstrates that opportunity for young North Carolinians has expanded in some important areas, such as college enrollment and women's income. At the same time, the overall trends are worrisome: rising costs make it difficult for students to stay in school and graduate, employment has become less stable, earnings have declined for workers without a four-year college degree, and young adults are increasingly saddled with debt.
"Today's young adults face steeper financial challenges than their parents did," said Lucy Mayo, an author of the report and Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, "But it's not just the economy—our public policies have failed to cushion the blow. A previous generation had the G.I. bill and access to an affordable college education—what are we doing for this generation?"
The report discusses how the earnings of North Carolina's young workers have been consistently below the national average over the last thirty years, even as the median earnings for young workers nationwide declined. North Carolina workers in their mid 20s in North Carolina have actually experienced significant declines in earnings over this time period, exacerbating the gap between North Carolina and the nation.
Other key findings from the report, Building North Carolina's Future Middle Class, include:
Employment and Earnings:
Debt and Assets:
Raising a Family:
Alexandra Forter Sirota, Public Policy Analyst and report co-author said, "The right policies can restore opportunity for North Carolina's young adults and rebuild entryways to the middle class. We need a bold state and federal policy agenda, including creating good jobs through the public sector, better regulating exploitative lending of all kinds, and making higher education affordable."
Policy recommendations offered in the report include increasing federal and state funding for community colleges; creating career ladders in high demand occupations to enhance job mobility; index the states' and federal's minimum wage to inflation, increasing North Carolina's Earned Income Tax Credit; ensuring the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau protects consumers from toxic financial products; and ensuring adequate state revenue through a progressive, well-funded tax system.