Ben Britt of Atlanta measures the changes that have transformed the American economy over the past generation in the distance between his life in his late twenties and his father’s experiences at the same age.
Britt, 28, feels as if he is still just getting started. After high school, he spent years in odd jobs (farm work, road construction, landscaping) trying to save money to attend college. Now, he’s finally expecting to complete a four-year college degree in computer engineering in the spring of 2017. Once he has the degree, he’s hoping to find a job nearby that can launch a sustainable career—and then to move from the apartment he’s sharing with a roommate into a house he would own. He’s excited to step into a new stage of life—but conscious it has taken him much longer to reach it than his father needed in the 1980s.
“My father didn’t finish college,” Britt says. “He got into road construction and worked his way up in that company. That’s how he got settled in. He had a home by the time he was my age. His life was a lot more stable, I would say. [My goals] are mostly the same. It’s just that achieving them has become a lot tougher. For a lot of people, it has been pushed back further in years. Instead of settling down in your mid-twenties, a lot of people are waiting until they are 30 or their mid-thirties.”
Like Britt, many Americans believe the changing economy is rewriting the rules of success, the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll has found. Substantial portions of the population, the survey reports, are questioning the pathway that earlier generations considered the most likely route to achieving their personal and economic goals.