Millennials are a very misunderstood generation. Once you look past the stereotypes of the "lazy", "entitled", "narcissistic","complainers" narrative, you will see that millennials are actually extremely educated, free-thinking, and driven. We are often criticized for being "whiny", but in reality we are just frustrated. Millennials are a very frustrated generation, and we have every right to be. We are the most educated generation in history while simultaneously being the first to be worse off than our parents since the Great Depression. The economic challenges we face are far-reaching, run deep, and are the result of an economic crash we had no part in creating. So let's break down these economic challenges, and then you can decide if our reactions are reasonable.
Challenge: College debt is crushing us
"By making college unaffordable and student loans unbearable, we risk deterring our best and brightest from pursuing higher education and securing a good-paying job."
-Rep. Mark Pocan, WI-2
According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of adults under the age of 30 have student loan debt. The average undergraduate degree holder owes $25,000, a mountain of debt that impedes the ability to thrive financially in times of economic hardship. This problem has become so endemic that one-fifth of college educated, employed adults with outstanding student loans report working more than one job and struggling financially.
Challenge: We are the most underemployed generation
“Millennials were applying for jobs in the most difficult economic climate since the Great Depression and as a result, a growing number are now working in low-wage industries and earning less than their predecessors”
- Scott M. Stringer, New York City Comptroller
In 2016, 51 percent of millennials reported being underemployed, according to a survey conducted by Accenture. The number of employed young people making less than $25,000 a year has spiked significantly to the highest levels in more than a quarter century. Millennials are entering the job market with a set of skills that they have invested their money and soul into, only to find themselves in a job that doesn't require a degree. If more than half of our generation is feeling this way, this is a problem for us all. How does this make sense, with millennials being the most educated generation to date? The answer: it doesn’t.
Challenge: Unemployment rates hit us the hardest
“I was surprised by how high (unemployment) is for millennials...Unemployment is becoming a youth problem”-Andrew Hanson, research analyst at Georgetown University
The millennial unemployment rate sits at a startling 12.8 percent (national average is 4.9), while the U.S. census data shows that 40 percent of our nation's unemployed are millennials. At the end of the day, older generations are taking longer and longer to retire, and that mitigates chances for the nation's young adults to find jobs. This problem is especially frustrating because more than 90% of jobs created post-recession required higher education. So our generation embraced the necessity of college education at outrageously high costs but can't find the jobs we were promised.
Challenge: Incomes are bleak
“Hardworking young people are being forced to do more with less, and Washington’s policies aren’t helping”
- Patrice Lee, Generation Opportunity National Spokeswoman
Americans between 18 and 34 are earning less today than the same age group did in the past. In fact, average earnings are the lowest that they have been since 1980. The typical millennial earned $33,883 between 2009 and 2013, while in 2000 young people were earning an average of $37,355. College graduates entering the workforce during periods of economic turmoil earn less than those entering the workforce during periods of growth. Starting off behind can result in never getting ahead. Millennials are holding the record for the highest number of college graduates, so these falling earnings don't add up.
It makes sense that our generation is frustrated with the current climate because we know things can and should be better. However, with each day that passes millennials have a greater influence on the political system. Waiting around for someone else to do it hasn’t worked. The necessary changes need to come from us- through becoming organized, voting, engaging with legislators and showing up when called to do so. Virginia21's #The30Percent initiative is one of those calls. Our issues must be addressed regardless of who our leaders are. The time to get involved is now because at the end of the day, these economic challenges aren’t our fault, but they are our problem.