Hello, Lost Generation (and Generation C).
April 13, 2020 2:46 PM Subscribe
"Millennials now are facing the second once-in-a-lifetime downturn of their short careers. The first one put them on a worse lifetime-earnings trajectory and blocked them out of the asset market. The second is sapping their paychecks just as they enter their peak-earnings years, with 20 million kids relying on them, too. There’s no good news in a recession, and no good news in a pandemic. For Millennials, it feels like there is never any good news at all."
Key numbers from the article:
Key numbers from the article:
Slogging their way through the aughts, avocado toast in hand, the Millennials proved those miserable studies true. During the recession, half of recent graduates were unable to find work; the Millennials’ formal unemployment rate ranged as high as 20 or 30 percent. High rates of joblessness, low wages, and stagnant earnings trajectories dogged them for the following decade. A major Pew study found that Millennials with a college degree and a full-time job were earning by 2018 roughly what Gen Xers were earning in 2001. But Millennials who did not finish their post-secondary education or never went to college were poorer than their counterparts in Generation X or the Baby Boom generation. Economic growth, in other words, left the best-off Millennials treading water and the worst-off drowning.Meanwhile, the generation proceeding Millennials face their own distinctive challenges:
Crummy wages collided with a cost-of-living crisis and heavy debt loads. The cost of higher education grew by 7 percent per year through the 1980s, 1990s, and much of the 2000s, far faster than the overall rate of inflation, leaving Millennial borrowers with an average of $33,000 in debt. Worse: The return on that investment has proved dubious, particularly for black Millennials. The college wage premium has eroded, and for black students the college wealth premium has disappeared entirely. While struggling to pay down their student loans, millions of younger Americans have also found themselves shut out of the real-estate market by housing shortages and attending sky-high prices. Rich Boomers bought the houses and made building new ones impossible. Millennials were forced to keep on renting, transferring wealth from the young to the old.
For healthy young people like Arora—who seem much less likely to have severe complications with COVID-19 than their elderly counterparts—living through a months-long quarantine and the deep economic recession likely to come after it will have consequences all its own, most of which, for the moment, are unknowable. It’s hard to imagine the future of this cohort in any detail, beyond the fact that their lives will be, in at least some ways, profoundly different from what they might have been. While writing about how the pandemic might eventually end, my colleague Ed Yong posited that babies born in the post-coronavirus era, who will never know life before whatever enduring changes lie ahead, might be called Generation C.
But Generation C includes more than just babies. Kids, college students, and those in their first post-graduation jobs are also uniquely vulnerable to short-term catastrophe. Recent history tells us that the people in this group could see their careers derailed, finances shattered, and social lives upended. Predicting the future is a fool’s errand even when the world isn’t weathering what looks to be an epoch-defining calamity, but in the disasters of the past lie clues that can begin to answer a question vital to the lives of millions of Americans: What will become of Generation C?
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