As of First Quarter 2021, 3.8 million 20-24 year olds are not in school nor employed, 740,000 more young adults adrift than in First Quarter 2020. While wondering, “Where are they?”, more disturbing to consider is, “What are the long term consequences of a delayed entry into adulthood?”
First, dismay may be transforming into disaffection. The current generation of 20-24 year olds expected to graduate college in order to be endowed with The Golden Ticket of lifelong economic prosperity, many forgoing the imaginative, free-flowing exploration of childhood in service to “doing what will eventually merit me a college acceptance”.
Now living the stark reality of unrealized promises, their palpable consternation may translate into a long term hiatus from economic activity, discouraged that they will unlikely be able to accumulate the same wealth as their parents. Thus, they’ll exact a twisted “revenge” on the older generation, reducing the tax base to support a rapidly aging Baby Boomer generation who are already struggling to support their own retirement and health care needs.
Secondly, Summer 2020 and 2021 college graduates attempted to join the workforce in the middle of the greatest economic downturn in nearly 100 years, eagerly ready to assume their position as financially-responsible adults. But, many are still yet to recover. Some have stopped looking for employment, according to the Pew Research Trust, while others may be in graduate school (as admissions for Fall 2021 increased) possibly adding more student loan debt which will further burden them for decades into middle adulthood.
With such a delayed start to responsible, self-reliant adulthood, no longer dependent on their parents’ largess, the bitter taste of unrealized expectations may fundamentally shift their long term participation in society. Yet, the youngest adults, those 20-24 year olds, the oldest of the Gen Z’ers inherent complex, global issues, like environmental degradation and the growing state-owned debt of many developed nations, creating the conditions for a conflagration consuming all generational bystanders whose costs will be even more disproportionally bore by future unborn generations.
Read the Center for Economic & Policy Research for more information
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