Newly released U.S. census data shows just how great a challenge the youngest generation of Americans has to overcome.
The numbers and trends are hideous:
-Employment for young Americans is at its lowest percent since the Great Depression. Only about 55% of 19-25 year old Americans are currently employed.
-A growing number of young Americans move back in with their parents after college graduation. So they are often deep in debt and without the means to pay it off.
-Young Americans without a college education are having an even more difficult time finding the blue-collar that they would traditionally take because those jobs are completely evaporating.
-Big, blue-collar cities that used to be a haven for young job-seekers are severely hampered because of the housing bust and the decline in industry.
-Young Americans are also much less likely to move to a new state, seeking opportunities.
-About 6 million 25-34 year old Americans live with their parents
Obviously, all of these problems are causing great number of difficulties and increased stress for young Americans right now, but the trends for the future are even more disturbing. These realities can grind down even the most optimistic young people.
America has always been known as a land of opportunity, individualism, and growth. Even when similar economic catastrophes plagued the country in the past, there always seemed to be opportunities for growth elsewhere.
It’s safe to say that many 20-somethings of my generation enjoyed dramatic prosperity in their youth, when the nation was growing rapidly, that has been severely curtailed in the last few years.
However, the kind of economic failure being experienced by Americans now is not without precedent in history.
There were a number of “Panics” (A recession caused by a financial collapse) in the 19th century that ruined many Americans and reversed the massive gains created by the national growth in earlier periods
For instance, in 1819 America experience its first true economic disaster. Not only did the economy collapse, but the flow of western migration was halted in its tracks. People got burned by massive land speculation in western lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, and banks were unwilling to lend money to cash starved frontier settlers.
The disaster increased hostility to both national leaders and banks, especially the Second National Bank. A new party emerged from the wreckage with an anti-national bank platform and a deep hostility to “elites”. Eventually, a popular national war hero, Andrew Jackson, emerged to nearly achieve victory in the 1924 election, and produced a real wave in the 1928 election that brought himself and the Democratic Party to power.
Jackson ran on a pitch perfect anti-bank, anti-elites platform that resonated with a majority of American people and allowed him to successfully enact his agenda. The Second National Bank was destroyed and a large number of outsiders were brought to Washington D.C.
The country moved on from its troubles, but not without much tumult in the political system and a re-alignment in national politics. It seems that we are headed for that today as well.