Friday, November 03, 2006

Generation Debt

For those of you who don't know, I work at the public library. One of the perks of doing so is being able to see all the new books that come in before the patrons do. ;-)

Wednesday I was able to pick up a book that I think a lot of people my age (mid to late 20s) could relate to--I certainly can. It's called Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to be Young and it's by Anya Kamenetz.

Here's a blurb from the jacket:

"The nature of youth is to question.

So when 24-year-old Anya Kamenetz started out as a freelance journalist, she began asking hard questions about her generation, for which no one seemed to have good answers. Why were college students nationwide graduating with an average of more than $20,000 in student loans? Why were her friends thousands of dollars in credit card debt? Why did so many jobs for people under 35 involve a plastic name badge, last only short-term, and include no benefits? With record deficits and threats to Social Security, what kind of future was shaping up for our nation's youth?

In Generation Debt, Kamenetz talks to experts in economics, labor markets, the health care industry, and education, and amasses a startling array of evidence that building a secure life, let alone surviving, is harder for young people today than it was thirty years ago. She meets young people from all over the country and all walks of life who are struggling to achieve their dreams despite layoffs, grinding low-wage jobs, and 25.99 percent APRs."
*****

When I graduated from college four years ago, I thought I could find a good paying job, have a decent place to live, maybe buy a car, and start being an adult. I was already living on my own, but hoped the degree would make things a bit easier for myself.

It didn't quite turn out that way.

Kamenetz found while researching her book that the main cause behind this trend is economic. What do you think? What are the reasons behind this generation's difficulty in finding their niche and getting their lives together? Is it economic? Societal? Or just plain laziness? Have you experienced this for yourself, or do you know anyone who is going through this?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

4 comentarios:

eliza said...

You are totally talking about me. I graduated with a BA in 2001 and have yet to find a good job. I've found that it really is no longer what you know, but who you know. I wouldn't even have my current job if it wasn't for a friend.

I worked my butt off to get through school with very little help from my mother (because she couldn't afford it). I had scholarships, grants, loans, a work study job...you name it. And five years later I'm still paying off loans, though I'm luckier than most in that I'm not in the hole as much as most students. It's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had responses to economic concerns and frustrations of the 20-something generation. However, having insight into the subsequent decade, the book "Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic" by John DeGraaf might provide you a birds eye view of the situation. While professionals in their 30's - 60's are not the cause of the economic slump, there was certainly a contribution by that generation. White collar crime, conspicuous consumption, expectations beyond logic and corruption, didn't help matters.
There is a gross disparity between professional fields. A 25 year old lawyer straight out of law school can command upwards of $148,000 annually plus perks and signing bonuses. All you need is a decent law school and pass the bar exam in your State. However, a high school teacher with a MA degree in Biology is lucky to get 60 grand at one of the top paying school districts in the nation.

ivy said...

@courtney-- it is certainly a problem. I agree that this generation gets it a lot harder. And it's not laziness at all. I'll talk about cities. people in 1960s paid half a week! salary for rent. Now you're lucky if you pay 2 week salary. Consider you have a good deal. It's becoming rare that young people have a place to themselves -- they're forced to have rommates.

You could buy a house then if you had an average stable job, like post-office worker or a teacher. It's impossible now unless you have a super job or trust fund.

State colleges were free and when they became paid the pay was very low. Now the rents are sky-rocketing and so do tuition costs. And jobs want somebody with work experience and not just out of school. How are you supposed to gain it if you're not given a chance? Benefits are non-existant in smaller companies.

How are young people supposed to survive? This kind of rat-race affects everything: personal relations, health-- both physical and mental--,outlook on life, ect. And the perspective for our 30s and 40s is far from being bright.

courtney01 said...

@eliza: It's nice to not be the only one in this predicament, though I suppose that's not very comforting for any of us, is it?

I graduated with nearly $13,000 in student loan debt myself. It wasn't until I turned 24 that I was able to get Pell Grants. Thank God I have no credit card debt.

@anon:

Hi! Thanks for contributing! That sounds like an interesting book; I'll look for it at work.

Anything to blame my parents' generation, after all! ;-)

(just kidding, of course)

@ivy: No, our prospects aren't that great, especially since we are outnumbered by the Baby Boomers and due to the government's mismanagement of nearly everything, the Boomers will bankrupt Social Security, Medicare, and we'll have nothing.

Or so goes my prediction. I hope I'm wrong.

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