I Hate My Generation

How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
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Many of the home buyers among us had only recently began trading up to house the kids we put off having. From a Generation X perspective, it seemed like a moment of arrival. It's growing. In-person human interaction is falling by the wayside. Jason is an art director and graphic designer based in suburban New Jersey.

Explore music. Tags rock power pop Detroit. Last Call for Breaking Hearts. Bob of the Pops Vol. An Assassination of Someone You Knew. A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night. Some looked like they were in their 50s. After six months of applying and interviewing and never hearing back, Scott returned to his high school job at The Old Spaghetti Factory. He still lives at home, chipping in a few hundred bucks every month to help his mom pay the rent.

In theory, Scott could apply for banking jobs again. But his degree is almost eight years old and he has no relevant experience. And pay off his student loans in 20 years. There are millions of Scotts in the modern economy. You can even see this in the statistics, a divot from to where millions of jobs and billions in earnings should be. In , more than 50 percent of college graduates had a job offer lined up. For the class of , fewer than 20 percent of them did.

According to a study, every 1 percent uptick in the unemployment rate the year you graduate college means a 6 to 8 percent drop in your starting salary—a disadvantage that can linger for decades. The same study found that workers who graduated during the recession were still making less than their counterparts who graduated 10 years later. Altonji, Lisa B. Kahn, Labour Economics, By now, those unlucky millennials who graduated at the wrong time have cascaded downward through the economy.

A university diploma has practically become a prerequisite for even the lowest-paying positions, just another piece of paper to flash in front of the hiring manager at Quiznos. Since , the economy has added In , young workers with a high school diploma had roughly triple the unemployment rate and three and a half times the poverty rate of college grads. Once you start tracing these trends backward, the recession starts to look less like a temporary setback and more like a culmination.

Over the last 40 years, as politicians and parents and perky magazine listicles have been telling us to study hard and build our personal brands, the entire economy has transformed beneath us.

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For decades, most of the job growth in America has been in low-wage, low-skilled, temporary and short-term jobs. The United States simply produces fewer and fewer of the kinds of jobs our parents had.

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The decline of the job has its primary origins in the s, with a million little changes the boomers barely noticed. The Federal Reserve cracked down on inflation. Companies started paying executives in stock options.

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Pension funds invested in riskier assets. The cumulative result was money pouring into the stock market like jet fuel. Between and , the average time that investors held stocks before flipping them went from eight years to around four months. The pressure to deliver immediate returns became relentless. The new paradigm took over corporate America. Private equity firms and commercial banks took corporations off the market, laid off or outsourced workers, then sold the businesses back to investors. In the s alone, a quarter of the companies in the Fortune were restructured.

Companies were no longer single entities with responsibilities to their workers, retirees or communities.

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Businesses applied the same chop-shop logic to their own operations. Executives came to see themselves as first and foremost in the shareholder-pleasing game. Higher staff salaries became luxuries to be slashed. Unions, the great negotiators of wages and benefits and the guarantors of severance pay, became enemy combatants. And eventually, employees themselves became liabilities. Thirty years ago, she says, you could walk into any hotel in America and everyone in the building, from the cleaners to the security guards to the bartenders, was a direct hire, each worker on the same pay scale and enjoying the same benefits as everyone else.

Since the downturn, the industry that has added the most jobs is not tech or retail or nursing. This transformation is affecting the entire economy, but millennials are on its front lines.

Where previous generations were able to amass years of solid experience and income in the old economy, many of us will spend our entire working lives intermittently employed in the new one. Trade groups have responded to the dwindling number of secure jobs by digging a moat around the few that are left. It makes sense: The harder it is to become a plumber, the fewer plumbers there will be and the more each of them can charge. Nearly a third of American workers now need some kind of state license to do their jobs, compared to less than 5 percent in It was supposed to be training, but she says she worked the same hours and did the same tasks as paid staffers.

All of these trends—the cost of education, the rise of contracting, the barriers to skilled occupations—add up to an economy that has deliberately shifted the risk of economic recession and industry disruption away from companies and onto individuals. For our parents, a job was a guarantee of a secure adulthood. For us, it is a gamble. I heard the most acute description of how this happens from Anirudh Krishna, a Duke University professor who has, over the last 15 years, interviewed more than 1, people who fell into poverty and escaped it.

He started in India and Kenya, but eventually, his grad students talked him into doing the same thing in North Carolina.

"I Hate My Generation"

The mechanism, he discovered, was the same. We often think of poverty in America as a pool, a fixed portion of the population that remains destitute for years. In fact, Krishna says, poverty is more like a lake, with streams flowing steadily in and out all the time.

Between and , the probability that a working-age American would unexpectedly lose at least half her family income more than doubled. And the danger is particularly severe for young people. In the s, when the boomers were our age, young workers had a 24 percent chance of falling below the poverty line.

By the s, that had risen to 37 percent. And the numbers only seem to be getting worse. From to , the poverty rate among young workers with only a high school diploma more than tripled, to 22 percent. Gabriel is 19 years old and lives in a small town in Oregon. He plays the piano and, until recently, was saving up to study music at an arts college. Last summer he was working at a health supplement company. Then his sister got into a car accident, T-boned turning into their driveway. His mom wasn't able to take a day off without risking losing her job, so Gabriel called his boss and left a message saying he had to miss work for a day to get his sister home from the hospital.

The next day, his temp agency called: He was fired. Though Gabriel says no one had told him, the company had a three-strikes policy for unplanned absences. He had already missed one day for a cold and another for a staph infection, so this was it. A former colleague told him that his absences meant he was unlikely to get a job there again. So now Gabriel works at Taco Time and lives in a trailer with his mom and his sisters. He still wants to go to college.

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The answer is brutally simple. In an economy where wages are precarious and the safety net has been hacked into ribbons, one piece of bad luck can easily become a years-long struggle to get back to normal. Over the last four decades, there has been a profound shift in the relationship between the government and its citizens.