Monday, October 21, 2013

The American Dream, Revisited

Unemployment is one of those dreadful words that has peppered our news religiously for the last decade.  It has ebbed and flowed with each year that passes.  To the average American, unemployment simply refers to whether one has a job; but to a Generation Y American the underlying meaning is much more complex.  

Generation Y, generally referring to those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s, is the most educated group to ever face mass unemployment.  Millennials, as they are also referred to, were raised in a world that taught them to attend college after high school, graduate, and get a well-paying job in a company that provides benefits and a 401K.  The Great Recession, which began in 2007 and ended in 2009 severely hindered this reality.  

Laziness is a common misconception associated with Generation Y.  Graduates are scattered among society making coffee at the local Starbucks, checking out guests at Meijer, and cleaning houses weekly.  “Get a real job,” is tossed around lightly by older generations.  The sad truth is that 27-year old Amy does not want to be brewing your Pumpkin Spice Latte, but the cost of paying off her college education leaves her no choice.  Amy has to accept any job she is offered, even a minimum wage job with little to no room to be fastidious.  53.6 percent of college graduates 25 and under are either unemployed or underemployed, according to the Associated Press.  

Millennials unable to find jobs in their desired fields are turning to jobs that are severely beneath their skill sets.  Many 20-somethings graduated from college, only to find the pool of competing applicants had more than tripled while they were in school.  The dream of each generation doing better than the last seems as far away as that ideal job.  Born from Baby Boomer parents, the expectation of financial success still seems reasonable for Generation Y, but the economy simply cannot supply the jobs.  Since the recession began in December 2007, average incomes for 25 to 34- year-olds have fallen 8 percent.   

A report released in August 2013 by PayScale and Millennial Branding, claimed that Generation Y is specifically underemployed and overqualified for the jobs they are working.  During the Great Recession many Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers lost their higher-paying jobs and instead settled for lower-paying, entry-level positions that would have normally gone to Millennials.  Generation Y seems to have been left out of the equation, and pushed into un- or underemployment.  College grad Ys are routinely cleaning Boomers' designer homes, if they can find the work.

The outlook for Generation Y is definitely not as bad as it could be, but it is not the ‘American dream’ that has been molded by older generations.  This dream needs to shift into the reality of what the economy can offer this group of young people.  Different expectations need to be laid out and different aspirations set.  It may not be as bountiful as past generations, but it will not lack in creativity, innovation, and growth.    

No comments:

Post a Comment