I’m taking off the week to go to Philadelphia and hang out with 22-year-olds for my next book on how the recession is affecting this generation. So no blogs this week (I can hear the disappointment).
To be honest, I’m worried about this generation. I know that we’ve had recessions before, but there’s rumblings out there that this recession is different–it’s not just a cyclical recession, one that will bounce back and reabsorb all those laid-off workers. Some are saying we’re experiencing a “structural” shift–which leaves much deeper scars and a more lasting change. While our interviews with young people to date have uncovered their optimistic side (“I don’t think it’s true that we won’t do better than our parents,” they say adamantly; “If we just work hard, we’ll succeed.”), I’m not so sure their optimism will hold. I leave you with these thoughts for the week.
After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on our children’s educations, we have little to brag about. Many of our children are feeling desperate about their futures, and we are feeling as though we have failed them. As a social worker, I often work with clients who have seemingly insurmountable obstacles to employment. They are people without hope. I often find myself wondering, is this the future for my own children and their friends?
Or this one:
Many of my friends and I are unemployed. There is no pattern to indicate who will find a job. World-class education, enviable résumés, internships, volunteer work and excellent people skills offer no guarantees. Nor do teaching English abroad and seeking even higher education. I know because I have tried both.
The op-ed, our own interviews, and these responses to the op-ed make it clear: there is a deep underlying anxiety about the future.
Bob Herbert captures this anxiety in his final column for the Times:
Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone….Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.
That future is what we will be exploring in this next book. So for now, it’s off to Philadelphia to spend some time with recent college grads and hear what they think, dream about, and hope for.