Study paints bleak picture for young workforce.

Share story

Facing diminished job opportunities and heavy student-loan debt, today’s 20-somethings may be more downwardly mobile than their parents.

That’s the grim news from a new study, “The Economic State of Young America,” released by a progressive think tank called Demos, and a youth-advocacy organization known as the Young Invincibles.

Making things worse for young people is the recession and its dismal aftermath.

“The Great Recession has intensified the impact of 30 years of negative economic trends across young Americans’ lives,” the Demos report says, adding, “Almost all young people make less than the previous generation at the same age.”

The report also includes the results of a national poll of young people showing that 48 percent of the Millenial Generation (born between 1977 and 1993) believe they are worse off than their baby boomer parents.

In fact, just 20 percent say they believe they are better off than their parents.

During a news conference announcing the report, Aaron Smith, executive director of the Young Invincibles — a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of millenials — praised young people, who, he said, strive to make a mark for themselves despite steep economic obstacles.

“The potential of this generation is great,” Smith said. “We’re serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re the most technologically savvy, diverse, and tolerant generation in history. And we continue to chase the American dream.”

Impeding that dream, however, are college tuition rates that have tripled in the last 30 years, along with increased rents, greater health-care costs, and crushing student-loan debt, he added.

As a result, many young people are delaying starting their families and careers, Smith said.

Smith said that some of that frustration over debt has fueled the Occupy Wall Street movement, and its splinter groups across America.

As disaffected as many young people are, they may well be a factor in the upcoming presidential election, the Demos survey found.

More than 80 percent of young people polled said they would turn out for the election. Around 40 percent said that they identify with the Democratic Party, while 23 percent said they identify with Republicans.

In the coming months, the Young Invincibles will initiate a national social media campaign that will allow young people to share their solutions to the economic crisis with their social networks.

Next spring, the group will host a Youth Jobs Bus Tour across America, with events on campuses, “bringing the voices of young adults to our political leaders,” according to the report.

The campaign will, according to the Demos report, “push our political leaders and the media to address the barriers to opportunity facing young people in this country.”

Demos is funded by the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Atlantic Philanthropies, among others.

The Young Invincibles is funded by the Packard Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Kauffman Foundation, the Cummings Foundation, the California Endowment, and other groups.