Are Today’s Youth Really a Lost Generation?

Derek Thompson:

They’re calling us the “Lost Generation.” Young people are struggling in record numbers to find work, leave home, and start a family, according to 2010 Census figures released today.
The proximate cause is the Great Recession. The number of young Americans living with their parents, nearly 6 million, has increased by 25 percent in the last three years. But the greatest cause for concern is that even when the recession has finally let go of the economy, young Americans — Generation Y or Millennials — will face a longer road back to normalcy than their older peers and parents.
Last week, I compared the impact of the recession on three generations: Gen-Y, Gen-X, and Boomers. Each face a particular challenge. For Boomers, it’s a wealth crisis. They invested in homes whose value has fallen by as much as 30 percent. For Gen-X, it’s an income crisis. They should be in the highest-earnings years of their life, but the recession has depressed their salaries and threatened their pensions. For Gen-Y, it’s about the future. The money they’re not making today is a problem. But the money they might not make tomorrow is a greater concern. Two decades after graduating into a recession, an unlucky generation can continue earning 10 percent less than somebody who left school a few years before or after the downturn. When Don Peck added it all up, he found “it’s as if the lucky graduates had been given a gift of about $100,000, adjusted for inflation, immediately upon graduation.”