are millennials destined to be poor? notes from huffington post article

nestor-morales-587950-unsplashI’ve been mulling over Huffington Post’s long form article about poor millennials for a couple of months now. I’m not sure why this piece stayed with me, maybe because it hits so close to home, but I think it’s time to gather my thoughts and move on.

Side note: love the design of this webpage!

The piece started out with basic stats of our generation, which can be summed up by below.

We are delaying partner-marrying and house-buying and kid-having for longer than any previous generation…Add it all up and it’s no surprise that we’re the first generation in modern history to end up poorer than our parents.

Compared to my parents, I got married a decade later than them and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make as much as they did and retire as early as they did as well.


There are millions of Scotts in the modern economy. “A lot of workers were just 18 at the wrong time,” says William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Labor in the Obama administration.

“Employers didn’t say, ‘Oops, we missed a generation. In 2008 we weren’t hiring graduates, let’s hire all the people we passed over.’ No, they hired the class of 2012.” “Every recession,” Spriggs says, “creates these cohorts that never recover.

What a scary conclusion! It basically says that we are fucked for life and can never recover. I guess if you think about compounding effects, it makes sense but dang.

Becoming poor is not an event. It is a process. Like a plane crash, poverty is rarely caused by one thing going wrong. Usually, it is a series of misfortunes—a job loss, then a car accident, then an eviction—that interact and compound.

Again, compounding effect can be a real bitch.

Once you start tracing these trends backward, the recession starts to look less like a temporary setback and more like a culmination…The new paradigm took over corporate America…“Corporations decided that the fastest way to a higher stock price was hiring part-time workers, lowering wages and turning their existing employees into contractors,” says Rosemary Batt, a Cornell University economist.

Wonder if our obsession with short-term growth was caused by advancements in communication technology or if it’s just a coincidence. The faster you can get in touch with someone, the faster you want to see results? Personally for me, my time expectations are much greater these days, especially in the world of Prime 2 Day Shipping.

In 2015, the Government Accountability Office estimated that 40 percent of American workers were employed under some sort of “contingent” arrangement like this—from barbers to midwives to nuclear waste inspectors to symphony cellists….The effect of all this “domestic outsourcing”—and, let’s be honest, its actual purpose—is that workers get a lot less out of their jobs than they used to. 

In addition to the rise of contractors and outsourcing, I’m seeing an increase in freelance jobs — without benefits and job security, which are contributing to millennial’s wealth gap.

Over the last 30 years, [the Trade Groups] successfully lobbied state governments to require occupational licenses for dozens of jobs that never used to need them…Nearly a third of American workers now need some kind of state license to do their jobs, compared to less than 5 percent in 1950…In sum, nearly every path to a stable income now demands tens of thousands of dollars before you get your first paycheck or have any idea whether you’ve chosen the right career path.

This reminds me a lot of the Planet Money’s episode called “Rigging the Economy,” where dentists went out of their way to make teeth whiting their “trade.” I’ve been feeling that Masters degree is now becoming a default requirement in the world of analytics and I guess other “trades” have figured out other ways to increase barrier to entry.

Between 2001 and 2014, the number of “severely burdened” renters—households spending over half their incomes on rent—grew by more than 50 percent.

I didn’t know that there was a term to describe people who spend more than half of their income on rent.

We can let our economic infrastructure keep disintegrating and wait to see if the rising seas get us before our social contract dies. Or we can build an equitable future that reflects our values and our demographics and all the chances we wish we’d had.

After all the structural and economic difficulties that was outlined by the article, the ending was somewhat anti-climatic. I understand that it’s difficult to make actionable implications from an article, but I wasn’t too crazy about “you are responsible for your future” rhetoric at the end of the piece.

Nonetheless, it was an interesting read about our collective circumstance and the factors that contribute to both our happiness and unfortunate events.




Photo by Néstor Morales on Unsplash

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