Entry level wages have dropped substantially enough in the last ten years that this has been dubbed the “Lost Decade” by the Economic Policy Institute.
“College-educated men and women entering the workforce saw their inflation-adjusted earnings fall 5.2 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively,” notes Jordan Weissman of the Atlantic, “Wages slumped 8 percent for high school-educated men, and 3.1 percent for women.”
I am a graduate during these years, and I am watching my peers and the students I work with now try to navigate a work force that looks vastly different than what we expected.
And if I’m honest, it’s not what we expected in large part because of some Gen Y stereotypes, like entitled, accustomed to instant gratification, and arrogant. What do you mean we’re stuck with this cruddy economy and our parents can’t fix it for us?
On the hopeful side, I wonder if this data could be a tool for a larger, more significant conversation between parents or youth workers and teens.
Sociologist Tim Clydesdale’s work includes the Lockbox Theory–the idea that young people lock away pieces of their identity during their college years to safeguard them from the threatening forces of the transition.
One group that resists lockboxing are young people who have been taught to be critical of the mainstream American script.
You know the one–good grades–>good college–>good degree–>good job–>big house, white fence–>fun toys, cool vacations–>bigger, shinier, sleeker.
Students who are taught (long before college, I must note) to question whether this path will deliver on its promise tend to resist lock-boxing and stay engaged with the various pieces of their life, including their faith.
Now is as good a time as any to ask if we’re trusting the economy in a way that only God should be trusted. Hopefully we are also including young people in that conversation.
For a little more on the Lockbox theory, you can read this longer piece I wrote for the Fuller Youth Institute.