“Kids these days!”
You might hear that every once in awhile. It might have to do with kids’ fashions, activities or mannerisms. To the previous generation, the current crop of youngins always seem to be bringing the world down or will somehow spell doom for our society. Because, you know, ear piercings are the sign of the coming apocalypse or something.
“Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
Sound familiar? Well this was actually written by Socrates in ancient Greece so apparently the “Kids these days!” problem has been a problem since at least the foundation of western civilization.
It’s a bit of a fallacy. Each generation is brought up in different circumstances, different technological eras and is an outcropping of the previous one. Naturally people will act different than they did decades ago — that’s just the natural progression of humans. I’d be a bit worried if we still all wore white wigs, dueled with pistols and flew kites in thunderstorms.
In last week’s column in The Independent’s opinion section, Don Brunell wrote about how more Millennials are living at home. According to his article, the population of 18-to-34 year olds has grown by three million, but the number of those people living independently has dropped from 69 percent in 2010 to 67 percent this year.
It’s easy to jump to the “Kids these days!” troupe. Lazy kids, can’t go and get a job, can’t find a house of their own. All they do all day is sit at their parents’ house and play video games. Surely America is going to fall apart because of this slacking generation.
While that would be the easy narrative to take, it wouldn’t be an honest narrative.
Instead of just calling the next generation “soft” one should probably take a look at the circumstances that are facing many Americans right now.
First, as Brunell brought up in his column, housing prices in metropolitan areas are ridiculous. So let’s say a kid gets a job in the city — lets hope it’s a CEO job because that’s what he’s going to need to afford housing. In San Francisco the average price for housing is $4,126 a month. In Seattle it’s $2,125 a month, Portland it’s $1,450 a month and Spokane checks in at an affordable $755 a month.
(But unfortunately Spokangoogle hasn’t taken off like regular Google so the tech jobs haven’t quite exploded in the Lilac City.)
So even if you land a well-paying job, the cost of living there is so ridiculous, it almost negates the advantage. And until Spokangoogle becomes a thing, well-paying technology jobs in more affordable and remote areas are hard to come by.
That isn’t the only monthly payment that kids are looking at these days. Years ago, it was very possible to go to college and actually pay for it, straight up. You could snag a job or two to cover the rent and while you might be burning the midnight oil, but you could swing it.
But now? Unless you can somehow find a part-time or full-time job that gives you tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses, it’s impossible now. College tuition has tripled since 2001 and students now have to take out loans and hope for scholarships. It’s a mess because, if a kid could make the amount of money it would take to afford a four-year degree now – why the heck would they go to college in the first place?
Students have been told to go to college so they can get a degree to get a well-paying job. They, however, need a well-paying job just to be able to pay for books and maybe a small 5×5 room in the dorms.
So kids get out of college, riddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. According to the column by Brunell, the average millennial has an average student debt payment of $410 a month. But that’s okay right? Because there’s a whole American breadbasket of well-paying jobs!
Wage growth has been flat, Brunell said in his column. And some of those “degrees” that colleges dangle in front of kids have very little real world implications so jobs are scarce. Well-paying jobs were a premium in 2008 and they still are. In fact, jobs have been leaking overseas for years.
So “Kids these days” have to hope for this…
1. No major health calamities for them or their parents because as you know, the quickest way to go broke is in the hospital room.
2. Getting the right teachers that can inspire.
3. Kids have to hope for either parents that can pay for tuition, a trailer-load of scholarships or a somewhat affordable school nearby.
4. After graduation, they have made enough connections in college to slide into a job somewhere. Lets hope the company is solvent and strong. Lets hope they offer benefits and don’t try to cut corners by making employees log hours that don’t show up on the timecard.
5. And let’s hope these kids parents have saved up for retirement and don’t get sick.
More kids staying home isn’t a sign of generational weakness. It’s a sign of economic mismanagement for years by the United States. Our educational and health prices have ballooned while our wage growth has flatlined. I don’t really need to bring up a bar graph for that do I?
These are two cornerstones of a healthy society but they’ve both slowly been sliding into the drink. It’s simple: if our educational system can’t provide an affordable way to move upwards in the economic ladder – and one health problem can land us in bankruptcy court – those are two obstacles that are unbreakable by the general public.
Sure, you’ll have the story of a kid here or there winning a scholarship. Maybe they managed to raise enough money through some freak, awesome way to pay for college that still doesn’t make up for the fact that the majority of people can’t afford it.
Millennials are moving in with parents out of necessity. It’s a bad sign for the country, as we’re tightening our belt again and again. Fifty years ago “Kids these days” could find a nice job out of high school – right in the town they grew up in – and support a family, buy a house and even a car! Things might be tight, but they’re doable.
Now “Kids these days” work two jobs so they can keep food on the table and they might have to get government aid because what if the mill shuts down for a slowing market? If they want to move up in the ladder, they’ll have to take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt and just hope they can slide into a job — in probably a bigger city with higher cost of living — to slowly pay off that student debt. Then maybe, just maybe, they can buy a house and even a car!
So if you want to talk about “Kids these days” make sure you adjust your expectations. Because these days aren’t like your days…
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff