The American Dream is about working hard in return for decent wages, economic stability, and being able to provide a better life for your kids. But the kinds of jobs that can provide a solid middle-class life in return for hard work are in short supply in Texas. Unemployment is still high, earnings have been stagnant for a decade, and many workers lack health insurance and retirement savings to protect them financially during a serious illness or when they can no longer work.
Challenges to the future of Texas' middle class can be seen most clearly in the economic prospects for the state's young people. Today many young workers are earning the same or less than their parents did a genera- tion ago, dashing hopes for economic mobility. Although a four-year college degree improves job prospects and lifetime earnings, skyrocketing college costs, especially since Texas' tuition deregulation in 2003, are making it hard for all but the most affluent students to stay in school and graduate. Texas college graduates have high levels of student debt while their earnings have fallen over the past decade. Young workers are increasingly less likely to have access to health insurance and retirement benefits through their employers, with the most dramatic changes occurring in recent years.
Now is the time for employers, workers, and policymakers to come together once again to rebuild pathways to the middle class, create good jobs with fair pay and decent benefits, and ensure that prosperity is broadly shared in the next generation.