Today's young adults are coming of age in a tough economy, on the heels of 30 years of declining economic opportunity and security for all but the most affluent and most highly educated. These changes are quite evident in Michigan, where the once-mighty manufacturing sector that provided better-than-average jobs in the 1960s and 1970s has eroded, hitting young adults particularly hard.
The state of Michigan provided ingenuity, muscle, and infrastructure and reaped many benefits including good jobs for skilled blue-collar workers and a commitment to higher education reflected in a strong state university system. Over time, as overt discrimination declined, opportunities expanded for women, blacks, and Latinos, and these groups continue to reap the benefits of a more inclusive society. Michigan's strength in manufacturing has left the state extremely vulnerable as rapid advances in technology and the force of globalization vastly alter the na- ture of work.
This report provides a detailed portrait of today's young adults in Michigan, and where possible, compares their economic status to that of the previous generation and to national trends for young adults. The report is organized into four key areas: employment and earnings, postsecondary education, debt and assets, and raising a family. It concludes with a set of policy recommendations, some federal and some state, some short-term and some long- term, that would help rebuild and restore the middle class.