Thirty-somethings of today have it harder than their parents, NJ economist says
Is the American Dream becoming more and more out of reach?
In 1970, a whopping 92 percent of Americans were earning more than their parents did at a similar age. But new research finds only about 51 percent of today's 30-year-olds earn more than their parents did at a similar age.
A study by economists and sociologists from Harvard, Stanford and the University of California used tax and Census data to make the comparisons and found older millennials today are having a tougher and tougher time finding success in the workplace.
“Millennials in the 30-year-old age range were dealt a body blow by the Great Recession, and that set back careers sometimes four, five years,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
In contrast, the parents of today’s millennials, back in the '60s through '80s, had a very different situation.
“That was a period of affluence in the United States and New Jersey, so they were making rapid, rapid advances compared to their parents,” he said
Hughes also said 30-year-olds today are lagging in the overall labor market because of globalization.”
He noted lower-paying jobs continue to expand.
“Manufacturing was a growth engine in the post-war era through the early '70s, and that provided middle class wages to those without a college degree. But that engine is gone,” said Hughes.
“Today’s generation, given the loss of manufacturing and information technology causing middle-skilled white-collar jobs not to be growing very rapidly, is really one of the culprits.”
Traditionally, the American Dream has included doing better than your parents, and also owning your home.
“That’s increasingly difficult to do today," he said. "Those 30-year-olds probably have high levels of student debt, they’ve had setbacks in the labor market,” he said.
Home ownership has gone from 69 to 62 percent over the past decade.
“It’s entirely possible going forward we will see some improvement, but we’re not going to go back to the golden years of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Today’s young people in the labor market are not just competing against other younger people in the labor market in the United States; they’re competing in a global labor market.”
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Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.