As a whole, millennials have somehow earned the reputation of being entitled, spoiled, and lazy. They are ruining everything, from casual restaurant chains to the housing market. What many who so quickly brand millennials with these generalizations don’t realize, however, is that millennials are the most screwed generation ever. Why do millennials have it so rough? The actions of previous generations - especially those who were in the position of power - have left millennials trapped in a system in which there is simply no way to win. From the start, millennials entered a workforce which demanded they have a college degree... except that college degree costs boatloads of money. And it all just spiraled from there. The millennial economic hardship is real, despite what baby boomers and Gen X-ers like to say.
Yes, the olds blame millennials for ruining all sorts of outrageous things, like the fall of bar soap, fabric softener, and cereal. However, millennials should never apologize for not being able to get married, buy a house, or have children, as they are simply too busy dealing with the complete and total mess of the housing market, job market, workforce benefits, and healthcare system that previous generations screwed up. Yes, baby boomers, you screwed it up for us all, so stop calling millennials lazy.
With the national student loan debt at a gobsmacking $1.4 trillion, the millennial generation has the heaviest student loan debt burden to bear in the history of the United States. It is important to note, however, that the correlation between student loan debt isn’t necessarily linked to more education, per se, but rather more expensive education.
Since 1988, college tuition has risen 213%. It’s actually been estimated that if college tuition stayed at the same price is was in 2001, 360,000 more young people would have owned homes in 2015. Make sure to tell your Aunt Linda that next time she gets on you about buying a home.
When teachers, parents, and guidance counselors were telling high school students that a college education was the key to a successful life, they may not have considered how much the key to a successful life cost, as it was 213% less expensive for them.
Unfortunately, during and after the Great Recession, the idea that a college degree could secure one a decent job was but a dream. It’s the ol’ supply and demand issue. There was great demand for jobs, so employers could select the most qualified - and often overqualified - candidate. Now when a millennial looks at a job post for an "entry-level" job and it says ‘two to three years experience’ or something else that is definitely not “entry-level,” it’s because of this period in time during which companies were hiring overqualified candidates for their entry-level positions.
And who were all these overly qualified people stealing those entry-level jobs? Millennials' parents! The recession resulted in the older generations staying in the workforce longer and forced the younger generation to put their career aspirations on hold. Since 2008, the workforce has seen a 13.2% drop in people under 25 and a 7.6% rise in people over 55.
It's certainly bad for the millennial who bought into the idea that college education was the key to everything only to end up $30,000 in student loan debt and working as a bartender. However, it’s even worse for the millennial without a college degree. Of course, it’s all a trickle-down issue: the older, more qualified candidates take the entry-level jobs; the college-educated candidates take jobs that don’t require a college degree; and then what’s left for the candidates without a college degree?
How hard is it for the high school graduate in the workforce? It’s reported as many as 43% of college graduates work a job that doesn’t require a college degree, with over 16% of bartenders having a bachelor's degree or higher. Not to mention, the millennial generation has more college educated people than any other: 40% hold a bachelor's degree or higher. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the high school graduates being twice as likely to be unemployed than someone with a bachelors degree.
So yeah, a college education may be extraordinarily expensive, but in today’s economy it has become extraordinarily necessary.
The millennials who are at the biggest disadvantage in the workforce are those who graduated between 2008-2012. They are simply victims of timing. They graduated in the thick of the Great Recession, during which time overqualified candidates were snatching up all those entry-level positions.
How bad was it for these college graduates? In 2007, 50% of all college graduates had a job lined up. By 2009, less than 20% had a job lined up. The result was several years of graduates who couldn’t find degree-related jobs and were forced to take blue-collar job opportunities. Even more unfortunate is how disadvantaged they were when the job market rebounded, as a recent college graduate was more likely to secure a job than someone who graduated college eight years prior and had no relevant job experience.
This creates a long-term discrepancy in incomes, as a 2009 graduate will typically earn $58,600 less than the 2007 graduate in a 10-year period.