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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    State of young America looks dark, not hopeless

    The future looks bleak, but chances are, if you are reading this, you already knew that. According to a report titled “The State of Young America,” we are all doomed.

    And that’s only a slight exaggeration.

    The report was the result of a collaboration between Demos, a New York City-based think tank that works to influence public policy, and Young Invincibles, a nonprofit youth advocacy organization that focuses on advancing education, health care and economic opportunity for young adults between the ages 18 and 34. In other words, you.

    Our parents bemoan our laziness, the coddling and spoiling that has made us soft and so prone to whining about everything that has been essentially handed to us. But “The State of Young America” demonstrates a new reality: That sense of entitlement our parents complain about? It’s gone. In the wake of the Great Recession, nearly half of young Americans between 18 and 34 years old do not believe they will be economically better off than their parents.

    Among the youngest adults, the rate of unemployment is almost twice the national average, according to the report. And before the skeptics can suggest it’s because those darned kids just don’t know what hard work is, almost 60 percent of the survey’s respondents said they would rather work more.

    Making matters even darker, joblessness is worst among young adults with less education, but college graduates are still a minority. While the enrollment rate is growing, dropout rates are still high. Nearly half of high school graduates who move on to college fail to actually finish college, according to the report, which blames this rate on a number of factors.

    Since 1980, public university tuition has tripled. Average tuition at private universities has done nearly the same, and tuition at community colleges has more than doubled.

    Oddly, though recent graduates are working less than they want to be, more than half of 4-year college students work more than 20 hours a week as tuition rises and as financial aid shrinks. Working so much and going to school only part-time increases the risk that students will fail to complete their degrees, making it still harder for young adults to find employment.

    But while “The State of Young America” paints a stark portrait of the immense challenges faced by college students and recent graduates, not all is lost.

    For now, as far as the numbers project, this generation will be the first to be worse off than its parents were — a failure to live the American dream. But this is only a projection, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Demos and Young Invincibles offer specific solutions to improve the economic outlook. These include phasing increases into to the federal minimum wage, eventually reaching $10 per hour by 2013, so that low-wage workers to “live above poverty.” The report also suggests increasing accessibility to college, pointing to educational attainment as the cause behind the success of the middle class.

    The subjects of the report are between 18 and 34, a period of time when people are shaping their futures: They pursue higher education and job skills, they join the workforce and begin to build careers. They buy their first houses, begin planning for families, start saving for retirement.

    Individually, all of these decisions will drastically influence our futures. Collectively, young America must decide they are worth saving.

    “The State of Young America” is more than a collection of numbers telling you of just how completely screwed your future looks thanks to the Great Recession and the decline of the United States’ middle class. Instead, it’s a reminder to endure.

    While it appears that this will be the first generation that will be economically worse off than its parents, it’s certainly not the first to face challenges. There’s no better way to prove the naysayers wrong than by demonstrating the ability to survive, and come out on the other side a better person because of it.

    Channel your anxiety into the quest for real, meaningful solutions. Don’t let fear become debilitating. Be informed and engaged. The frustration faced by young America can be turned into a positive force for change.

    —Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Kristina Bui, Storm Byrd, Nicole Dimtsios and Steven Kwan. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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