Six years after the economy shit the bed, let's check in with the "Boomerang kids." If you guessed "long-term cultural trend" rather than "recessionary blip" sometime back in 2010—ding ding ding! You're a winner! Your prize is this wadded-up copy of the Wall Street Journal full of dead bugs.
The New York Times Magazine just dropped a big piece on the phenomenon, complete with a really great photo essay. America's young adults just aren't leaving the nest like they used to: A fifth of people in their 20s and early 30s live with their parents, and 60 percent receive some financial support. And it's not just because they missed mom doing the laundry:
Nearly 45 percent of 25-year-olds, for instance, have outstanding loans, with an average debt above $20,000. (Kasinecz still has about $60,000 to go.) And more than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, meaning they make substandard wages in jobs that don't require a college degree.
For all the talk of entitled millennials, recent grads are dealing with a giant, stinking trash heap of garbage economic trends. There's the fact that anybody graduating during a recession never makes up for the lost wages, sure, but the term "entry level" has also become a joke. A college degree barely gets you in the door, because companies won't train new employees anymore. Or, as the Times depressingly puts it:
Today, about a third of young adults will earn a four-year-degree, and many of them — more than a third, by many estimates — are unlikely to find lifelong secure employment sufficient to pay down their debt and place them on track to earn more than their parents. If they want a shot at making it into the top 20 percent, they now need to learn a skill before they get a job. And for many, even with their parents' help, that's going to be an impossibility.
No wonder they call economics the dismal science! HEY-OOO!!! (Christ.)
But lest the Times' boomer subscribers despair their kids will goddamn never leave, the piece also points out that moving home (for those lucky enough to have that option) can also be seen as a pretty savvy financial move. Take the example of 28-year-old Adrianne Smith, who moved in with her parents after quitting a job as a behavioral analyst. But she did it deliberately, to save money to open her own clinic treating kids on the autism spectrum.
Even 27-year-old Annie Kasinecz, who's lived with her mom for four years and cycled through several temporary gigs while agonizing over her long-term plan, gets a bit of buck-up-kid encouragement from Clark University psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett. At least she's actively seeking the right fit. (And at least she's not racking up anymore debt, living on credit cards or god forbid borrowing to go to some grad school that won't provide any better job opportunities.)
I wonder how reassuring Kasinecz finds that? The Times piece ends on an "i unno" note. We're stuck with the trend but hey, nobody knows how it's going to play out! But it's probably a lot easier to feel sanguine if you're not actually in the economic trenches, here, spending day after day scrolling through useless job boards and firing resumes off into the void.
Let's just rename everybody from 15 to 35 Generation ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Because fuck it, IDK, LOL.
Photo via Dario Lo Presti/Shutterstock.