The Far-Reaching Effects of the Generational Wealth Gap
Young Americans are struggling to build wealth following the Great Recession
Perhaps one of the most dramatic changes to take place during the Great Recession is the way young adults live. For decades prior to the downturn, it was expected that after college, good jobs would be available and provide the means for young adults to start their own lives.
This is no longer the case.
College students who graduated in recent years -- commonly referred to as "millennials," a term that reflects their upbringing in the first decade of the 21st Century -- have faced one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. Even the best and brightest college graduates have struggled to find work. Many have been forced to take part-time jobs, or jobs with uncertain futures. Their ability to build wealth has diminished.
In addition, more and more young people are living at home -- not out of choice, but financial necessity. According to
The increase in "boomerang kids" is dramatic. In 1980, only 11 percent of young adults lived at home, according to Pew. Now, nearly 30 percent of 24- to 34-year-olds have either never moved out of their parents' house or returned after living on their own. And 53 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds still live in their parents' home.
The growing wealth gap. All of these factors contribute to what has come to be known as the generational wealth gap: Older Americans are gaining more and more wealth, while the net worth of younger Americans is decreasing.
According to a
"As a result of these divergent trends, in 2009 the typical household headed by someone in the older age group had 47 times as much net wealth as the typical household headed by someone in the younger age group --
Another report by Pew helps support Taylor's claim. According to a
The "funemployment" myth.As many young people have struggled to find work, a new term has been created to describe their condition: funemployment. According to Urban Dictionary, fumemployment is defined as "a happy time in one's life when one is not employed and is not wanting to be employed."
This condition was popularized in large part by the IFC series Portandia, which both celebrates and satirizes the lifestyle. But according to
"Its easy to play up the Portlandia stereotype, but the reality is quite grimmer than that," de Place says. "Most folks would like to find a decent job, but it's not the environment that they came out of college into."
Hess eventually got a job at a local mall, working for a sustainable environmental company. That company folded in 2008. Hess then moved to
Hess says his experience in the new job market has altered the way he views employment. For him, security is the key. "I had a lot of friends that went to places and got laid off," Hess says. "There was a round of layoffs [at Sightline] a year ago. Had I graduated a few years earlier, I would have been more willing to take a risk. But I'm very happy with this job right now."
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