by Patrick Appel
Jamelle Bouie's two cents:
[The NYT] delves into the "extended adolescence" of relatively sheltered graduates from major universities, but what about the mass of 20-somethings who either didn't go to college or pursued degrees at community colleges and local universities? I graduated from a high school of roughly 2,400 people in 2005, and judging from the Facebook profiles of those I graduated with, many of my former classmates have built fairly adult lives for themselves. Most have jobs and live independently of their parents. Some have spouses or long-term partners, a few have children. For those who do live with their parents, it has less to do with maturity and more to do with the terrible job market. Obviously, anecdotes can't substitute for statistical data, but I'd wager that the above is true for many 20-somethings of modest means.
A reader makes some related points:
Conor seems to have missed the gigantic elephant in the room: the economy. Particularly since unemployment has so far fallen hardest on teens and 20 somethings in this recession. I'm currently 25 and living with my parents while attending graduate school. It is not what I was hoping for at this point in my life, however it is the circumstance that I find myself in thanks to being unable to get stable gainful employment right out of college. (Architecture has been hit pretty bad along with all the other construction related fields; worst billings period on record) This is hardly some horrific circumstance, and in fact I'm grateful to my parents for being there to help me get through it with a hopefully stronger resume than I had before the recession started, but it's still not the ideal 20's that I had dreamt of when I was a kid lying awake at night.
At this point I was hoping to have accomplished some of those NYT milestones. Reality is indifferent to my hopes and dreams, though, and so I'm stuck looking for work in a lousy economy while hiding away in the ivory tower hoping things get better. I can only imagine what life is like for those who were unable to go to college or join a trade or some other vocation that provides some degree of bargaining power with employers.
Periods of economic uncertainty quite simply are not conducive to taking risks. At the personal level this typically means buying a house or starting a family. Certainly nobody should put their life on hold completely for macro-economic policy reasons, but ignoring the reality of this recession seems just as foolhardy. Yet somehow when a company does this it's called prudence or responsibility , but when a generation does it it's called immaturity. If today's circumstances were different I probably would have my own place and financial independence at the very least. The assumptions being made by the gainfully employed author reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, actually:
"Can a man who's warm understand one who's freezing?" -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
What would that writer be doing if he was suddenly out of work right now? I seriously doubt it would be signing up for a mortgage and working towards having another baby.
I guess we 'kids today' just can't win when it comes to generational summaries. But then that's always been the case and probably why I quit reading stories about generational 'trends' or what have you long ago.