Readers Respond: Are Young People Worse Off?

For some, the economic situation is forcing hard choices.


Earlier this week, I posted about my frustration at 20-somethings who thought they had to live in a big house before having kids, or that someone should pay them to go to school to study obscure subjects. Many people left comments, some agreeing with me, and some pointing out that young people really do have it harder today, and sometimes it's extremely difficult to make ends meet.

Veronica of New York said that she never expected life to be easy, but nor did she think it would be as hard as it's been. "I thought [that] by starting my job search in January, I'd be better off. Here it is, early April, and not even a nibble on any of the resumes I've mailed [out]," she writes. Now, she says, she'll be moving back home with her parents, unemployed.

Johanna, 31, of Maryland, pointed out that taking on such large student loans is a new challenge for young people, and one that didn't exist to the same extent for previous generations. "I do genuinely feel bad for people who were persuaded to take on student loans that they couldn't afford -- yes, it was their choice, but I can easily see how they could have been led to believe that it was their only choice," she says.

Johanna says that she feels lucky -- she doesn't have student debt because she got a scholarship, and she has a secure job. But she also notes that her parents, a teacher and civil engineer, could afford much more at her age, including a three-bedroom house on seven acres and the ability for her mom to take time off from work to care for her and her brother. "Those things seem far off for most people my age," she says.

Jae, a 20-something of New York, sees things differently. He and his wife live in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with their child. "We get so tired of hearing people say they have to live in a house once they get married or have a kid. Yes, it would be nice, but it's a luxury... That's ridiculous to have such crazy expectations, especially right now," he writes.

Since writing that blog post, I also learned some new information. A survey came out that documents just how badly young people are suffering: One in five are unemployed and two in five have skipped a meal to save money. I don't mean to diminish the struggle that many 20-somethings are facing by saying that some of us need to adjust our expectations, and realize that we can be happy without a large house or esoteric degree. It's not fair that so many people can't find work, or are forced to skip meals. I have nothing but sympathy for people who find themselves in such difficult situations.