Are we in the midst of witnessing our own 'Lost Generation'?
The term "Lost Generation" refers to those who came of age during World War I whose experience in the trenches soured them on western civilization, nationalism, and capitalism. Many became expatriates, haunting the Left Bank cafes in Paris, writing poetry and generally living what was known as a "bohemian" lifestyle.
A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank in New York says that 25% of recent college graduates are working part time. The number has spiked since 2011 with no hope in sight that the situation will change.
The unemployment rate for recent college graduates has spiked higher, forcing many former students with huge school loan debt to take low-wage jobs in coffee shops and shopping malls just to scrape by, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
"Both unemployment and underemployment have followed a clear upward trend for recent college graduates over the past two decades, and particularly since the 2001 recession. In addition, it has become more common for underemployed college graduates to find themselves in low-wage jobs or to be working part-time," said the report circulated by Harvard University.
Stuck with college bills that may be more than $29,000, according to Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the situation for struggling grads has prompted many to work part-time jobs and even two low-wage jobs to make do, said the New York Fed. But even the quality of those "non-college" jobs has deteriorated over the last decade, it added.
The grim details for recent college graduates from the Fed:
- Unemployment is higher than the national average, peaking at around 7 percent in 2010.
- Underemployment has jumped to 44 percent in 2012.
- Fewer are finding jobs in their fields of study.
- The number of those who have taken good-paying jobs where college degrees are not needed, such as electricians or mechanics, has dropped from 50 percent in the 1990s to 36 percent by 2009.
- Those working part time has jumped from 15 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2011.
This is the generation that bought into the "hope and change" nonsense - just like the World War I generation bought into the "war to end all wars" idiocy. When the original lost generation saw the results of western industrialized power channeled into war making, they lost faith in the institutions who they felt were responsible for the conflict.
I can imagine some similar process happening today. If you're working as a barista at Starbucks after spending a quarter of a million dollars for a degree in environmental management, your prospects for a happy life have dimmed considerably. You put off marriage, put off buying a house, a new car, and you may even still live with your parents. Maintaining the same faith in the institutions that sustained your parents becomes more difficult over time.
It's taken us decades to get where we are and will probably take just as long to fix it. That isn't good news for this current "Lost Generation" and their dashed dreams of the good life.