Our economic system has failed the younger generations

The American dream remains just that—a dream.

Brianna Clark, Opinions Editor

Growing up, the younger generation was encouraged by the idea that they only need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to achieve their dreams, just as their parents did. They became the most educated generation, with 39% of millennials holding a bachelor’s degree, and entered the workforce with high expectations. Despite their efforts, however, it feels as though they were given boots without straps. 

Before the pandemic, young adults struggled to find jobs in their field, receive adequate pay, and afford stable housing. This recession has only exacerbated their hardships and pushed them further away from the American dream they were promised. 


This pandemic is not the first recession that has knocked millennials off their feet. They entered the job market around the time of the 9/11 attack and following recession, only to be struck again by the Great Recession in 2008. The coronavirus has inflicted the third recession in 20 years on these young workers, making it incredibly difficult to maintain a steady career. 

Although millennials made up the majority of the workforce, the pandemic eliminated so many of their jobs that Generation X has reclaimed their position as the largest working generation. On the precipice of their best working years, millennials have been set back once again. Gen Z suffered even more job losses, but the long-term repercussions are likely to be less drastic since they are only just entering the labor market. 


Today’s younger generations are making less than previous generations did at the same age. Our economy was more productive than it was 30 years ago—prior to the pandemic—and therefore, the median wage should have risen as well. However, the median wage has remained the same in the scope of 30 years while the cost of living rose drastically. Regardless of college experience, the younger generation is employed in more low-wage jobs than in previous decades and less average and higher paying jobs, with more low-wage workers holding bachelor degrees than ever before. Young adults juggle with more debt than any other generation as well, yet they are living off of pennies, comparatively. 


 Leaving home is hard enough, but it is even harder to find a new one. Compared to previous generations, homeownership is much less common among today’s young adults. Immediately after college, 50% of Gen Z and millennial students returned home to live with their parents, and for many the move is not temporary. Student loan debt, rising housing costs and minimal wages often keep them unable to afford a place of their own. Although many move on after a few years of living with their parents, a whopping 23% of millennials still lived at home as of May 2018. 

The pandemic has only made the situation worse. According to Pew Research Center, 52% of young adults now live with their parents as a result of the coronavirus—a staggering percentage that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. Many returned home as a result of their colleges closing or their jobs ending. 


Young adults have been battling against a broken system long before the pandemic appeared. Opportunities that were easily feasible to previous generations are not even in the ballpark for many Gen Z and millennial citizens. Our country must do better to take care of the rising generations. 

As students, we are not fighting this system alone. Biola’s Office of Career Development offers aid to those exploring their career options and gives helpful tips for gaining experience. In addition, we can use this voting season to use our voices and push for fair wages and against soul-crushing student debt. 

We may have limited access to the American dream, but together we can make this dream a reality for us once more.

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