Recession Hurts Recent Grads

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Young unemployment is a well-established consequence of the recession. Anxiety about how this might negatively hit a generation seen as strongly Type A, somewhat coddled, and used to clear tasks and gold stars is also well-known. The New York Times, though, would like to stress it a little further.

The Times headlines trumpets that the "American Dream" is proving "elusive" for the younger generation. Louis Uchitelle tells the story of recent Colgate graduate Scott Nicholson, who "so far ... is a stranger to the triumphal stories that his father and grandfather tell of their working lives."  Just as "The Great Depression damaged the self-confidence of the young," this new recession is having a similar effect on Nicholson and his peers.

Starved for jobs at adequate pay, the millennials tend to seek refuge in college and in the military and to put off marriage and child-bearing. Those who are working often stay with the jobs they have rather than jump to better paying but less secure ones, as young people seeking advancement normally do. And they are increasingly willing to forgo raises, or to settle for small ones.

Uchitelle points out that millennials' persistent optimism, even as hard times make them risk-averse and challenge their self-images, owes much to their parents—"doting baby boomers." These parents devote both time and money to support their children through these rough years. But Uchitelle leaves the reader with the firm conclusion that parents can't solve all problems: "In better times, Scott's father might have given his son work at [his company], but the father is laying off workers, and a job in manufacturing, in Scott's eyes, would be a defeat."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.