Guest post: Young people are working harder, paying more, and earning less

Originally a comment by James Garnett on How much worse prospects for young people today are.

It’s very much true that things are worse now for younger people in the USA, too. Economically and career-wise, I mean. When I entered university at age 18 in 1984, a full semester of tuition at my state university cost about $1500, which is about $3500 in 2016 terms. That was just tuition. Back then, I recall that a salary of $40,000/year on graduation was relatively decent (in my field, Computer Science). Moreover, getting into the university was just a matter of having good grades and SAT scores.

Today students must pad their personal resumes with volunteering and extracurricular activities in addition to having good grades just to be accepted to the same university, and once accepted, they face single-semester tuitions of a little over $10,000. Upon graduation, they can look forward to a salary of around $70,000/year. So income hasn’t quite doubled, but expenses have almost tripled—and that’s just tuition. There are living expenses as well, and those have risen at the same rate.

So young people are working harder, paying more, and earning less. I know some younger colleagues who are facing decades of debt payments, as a result. How is someone supposed to save for retirement like that, when they are going to be scraping by, practically hand-to-mouth until at least their 40’s and sometimes even 50’s? The answer is obviously that they are not.

Is it any wonder that younger people are rejecting establishment candidates, and opting instead for those who promise them at least the same level of opportunity and life-success as we, their parents, had and have?

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