Millennial Data “Explainer”

Belief in the American Dream is fading, especially among young adults: The Wall Street Journal noted recently that “merely 42% think the American dream that ‘if you work hard, you’ll get ahead’ remains true, down from 53% in 2012 and 50% in 2010,” while “the steepest declines in belief in the last two years were among people under age 30 (down 16 percentage points), women (14 points) and Democrats (17). In other words, the most disillusioned belong to the coalition that elected President Obama.”

Young adults disproportionately bore the brunt of the recession: The Great Recession put 8.6 million people out of work, 47 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 34. The overall unemployment rate for workers 18 to 34 peaked at 14 percent and has come down to 9 percent, still much higher than the general population.

Median family incomes for college graduates are stagnant: “According to the Federal Reserve median family income for families headed by college graduates only increased 1 percent between 2010 and 2013. Those with some postsecondary education did much worse – their incomes took an 11 percent plunge. The Wall Street Journal also notes that, “Families headed by workers under age 35 have done especially badly—even when the heads of those young families have college degrees. The economic struggles of the millennials are more than anecdotal.”

Obamacare redistributes health insurance costs from older, wealthier generations to younger, poorer ones: “Thanks to a key provision, insurers must charge older Americans no more than three times what they charge healthy younger adults. As a result, insurance costs are soaring for the young. In 45 states and Washington, D.C., young adults will find that their premiums have risen since Obamacare’s implementation, according to an October study by the conservative Heritage Foundation.”

As a result, we’re left with insurance premiums that could more than double: “Recent college graduates with entry-level jobs who are struggling to pay off student loan debt could see their premiums increase on average between 145 and 189 percent,” the report said. “Some studies estimate young adults could experience premium increases as high as 203 percent. Any increase, let alone tripling current costs, could break the bank for young adults who have just started out on their own.”

Student loan debt is rising rapidly: “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates in the first quarter that student loan debt is nearly $1.1 trillion, more than double what it was in 2005 and larger than any other category of debt except for mortgages. Of student loan debt today, roughly 11 percent has been categorized as seriously delinquent, up 4.4 percentage points since the end of 2005.”

. . . and it’s happening in no small part due to soaring college tuition: “Meanwhile, students face unprecedented levels of student loan debt — $30,000 on average — as college tuition has swelled more than 1,000 percent over the past 30 years, according to Audelo.”

High levels of student loan debt are leaving young adults less happy, less healthy, and with lower job satisfaction: According to Gallup, “College graduates who carry a high amount of student debt appear to face long-term challenges that stretch beyond just their finances. A new analysis of Americans who graduated college between 1990 and 2014 shows that graduates who took on the highest amounts of student debt, $50,000 or more, are less likely than their fellow graduates who did not borrow for college to be thriving in four of five elements of well-being: purpose, financial, community, and physical.”

Student loan debt has lifelong impacts: “The biggest reason that Generation X-ers are earning more but have less won’t surprise millennials. It’s student loans. While student debt is most often thought to affect recent college graduates and millennials, it impacts older generations as well. Almost two-fifths of Generation X-ers who graduated from college and make more than their parents (38 percent) are still paying off student loans, and the median balance is $25,000, according to Pew’s study. And these are the “upwardly mobile” ones. “It does suggest their wealth accumulation is lower and they do have less reserves to care for the next generation,” said Diana Elliot, Pew’s research manager on financial security and mobility.”

We’re stuck living with our parents, but not because we want to: In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 (21.6 million in raw numbers) —the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32% of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34% doing so when it officially ended in 2009.

The economy is forcing young Americans to put off buying a home: In the first quarter of 2014, homeownership for Americans 35 and under declined to 36.2 percent, down from 36.8 percent in 2013 and the lowest on record since the Census’ Housing Vacancy Survey began tabulating homeownership by age in 1982. Homeownership for all ages dropped to 64.8 percent, the lowest level since 1995, a report this week showed.

As a result of all of these sad statistics, Obama’s support among young Americans has plummeted: “The president now has a 43 percent approval rating among adults 18-29, which is nearly half of what it was at the beginning of his presidency. . . In 2009, Obama had an 84 percent approval rating in this age bracket, which is one of his core constituencies.”