Young adulthood has always been financially perilous. But is it more perilous today than in the past? That question has come my way a fair number of times, ever since I shared a bit of new research showing that roughly a quarter of Americans spend at least a year living below the official poverty line between the ages of 25 and 34.* (More than 4 in 10 spend a year earning less than 150 percent of the poverty line, as shown in the graph below).
That figure provided a very longterm view of things, as it was based on an analysis of Panel Study of Income Dynamics data from 1968 through 2009. More than a few readers wondered: How have things changed? After all, we just lived through a little recession that ratcheted up poverty across the board.
Unfortunately, I couldn't convince Mark Rank, the Washington University in St. Louis professor who provided me with the data in my original post, to send over any more numbers from his forthcoming book (he wants to save a few surprises for the launch). But all is not lost. In 2009, Rank and his collaborators published a paper on how the odds of experiencing poverty in this country shifted between 1968 and 2000. The figures aren't 100 percent comparable to the graph up above, but they give us a strong sense of how times have changed.