Forget the stories about walking two miles to school every day—times have gotten so bad that even grandparents agree young people have a rougher lot in life than they themselves did. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than 80 percent of Americans believe it’s harder for young people to find jobs today that it was for their parents. Most respondents also said it's harder to save and buy a home today, too.
“There’s a real consensus across generations that this generation of young people face a different set of challenges for some of these basic milestones of adulthood, like finding a job,” says Kim Parker, associate director at Pew Research Center and lead author of the study. “If you can’t get a job, you can’t do a lot of other things, like paying back student loans,” she adds.
Among the survey’s most interesting findings:
- Almost one in three young people (between ages 18 and 34) have put off getting married or having a baby because of the weak economy.
- One in four has returned to their parents’ home to save money after some time living on their own.
- Young people are holding onto their optimism: Just 9 percent said they don’t think they will “ever have enough to live the life they want.”
- Just 30 percent of young adults surveyed said they consider their current job a “career,” which suggests that they anticipate more job changes and shifts in their futures.
- Half of young adults said they have taken jobs just to pay bills.
The good news? More young adults are going to college now, says Parker, and having a college degree increases their chances of earning more later. “Having a college degree insulated people from the worst effects of the negative labor market,” she says. Young people with access to education, in other words, have good reason to be optimistic.