There are 80 million Millennials. They are well educated, tech savvy -- but underemployed. And despite the solid pace of labor market growth in recent months, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, a staggering 76% of adult Americans -- a record high -- lacks confidence that their children’s generation will have a better life than they do.
“Younger people in their 20s and early 30s are at risk of becoming the first generation in history to have a lower standard of living than their parents,” explained Paul Taylor, author of The New America and executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.
And that’s not all. With over 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every single day, more retirements than ever before, things are out of balance.
“The numbers don’t work anymore, and the way things are going now, the federal government won’t be able to fulfill its responsibilities to younger generations regarding social safety nets,” said Taylor.
In addition to this, according to a recent survey by Pew, Millennials are the first generation in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment than their two immediate predecessor generations at same stage of life.
"We are a country that invests in big ideas that favor the future, like trains or the GI bill. But right now, with almost half of the country’s budget going to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, there is virtually nothing that is left over for discretionary spending for investments in the future.”
Pew also reports that Millennials have been keeping their distance from marriage, with 26% currently, compared with 48% of Baby Boomers at the same age.
But, it’s not all necessarily bad for the Millennials and succeeding generations.
“If we can get our spending priorities and generational equities in order, we can keep our economy second to none,” said Taylor.
And Millenials may ultimately emerge stronger because of the harder road they had to travel.
“Overall, I think [starting later] is a mixed bag,” Professor Jeffery Arnett, a professor at Clark University who has done extensive research on Millennials, said in an interview in April. “It takes longer for them to contribute economically because it takes so long for them to enter stable career paths. All that freedom can also be lonely at times. But waiting to choose a career or a partner or have a child -- it can make you a better parent; more knowledgeable and patient and able to maintain healthier relationships. Just overall, people make better life decisions after 30.”
Getting started later is not the only pattern that might beneficial. Another crucial element to what Taylor calls “the next America” is increasing racial diversity, which he said is an asset.
“With the heavy immigration flow, the U.S. is poised to stay relatively young, especially compared to other countries,” Taylor said, pointing out that by mid-century, more than half of all Americans will be non-white.
Still, for the near future, there are obvious strains. While hiring has increased, there has been almost no pickup in wage growth in the last decade.
“The Millennials who have been lucky enough to be in the labor market for a while are not doing as well as they should be,” said Taylor. “And it seems like something needs to change…. We are a country that invests in big ideas that favor the future, like trains or the GI bill. But right now, with almost half of the country’s budget going to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, there is virtually nothing that is left over for discretionary spending for investments in the future.”