Gen Y is breaking national records yet again, and it’s not pretty.
Millennials are the first generation to be worse off than their parents, and America’s outdated education system is partly to blame.
The 20-somethings of 2010 possessed seven percent less wealth on average than the young adults of 1983, and almost half of the wealth of their parents at that same age, according to 2015 data from the Urban Institute.
In short, we’re the first ever generation to prove that you can be statistically more indebted, underpaid and financially unstable than the people that raised you. You’re welcome.
Thanks a lot, higher education
While the impact of the student debt crisis, the recession and the ensuing weak labor market shouldn’t go unmentioned, economists are quick to point to an overarching productivity slowdown as the culprit behind this lovely stat.
To wit, our ineffectual higher education system has been caught red-handed as a two-faced accomplice. Because soul-crushing student loan debt obviously wasn’t enough.
“Back in 1900, only 10 percent of the American population had completed high school. By 1970, it was up to 80 percent,” explained Robert J. Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University and author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth, in an interview with Mic.
“Since then we’ve had a plateau of about 80 percent with about 15 percent or 20 percent continuing to drop out of high school. That’s the education headwind, and it’s gradually removing the power of further education to raise productivity growth.”
Student loan debt with a side of unemployment
Gordon labels America’s education system as just one of the four main catalysts behind our country’s lackluster economic prowess, but America’s education problem extends far beyond high school drop outs.
Aside from front-loading us with debt before we can legally drink a beer, our higher education system arguably fails to accomplish it’s only goal: to prepare students for the work force.
As our economy adjusts to a tech-based job market in search of highly technical labor, American universities are churning out well-intentioned psychology, English lit and history majors in search of gainful employment.
This sentiment is validated by a recent study from McKinsey&Company, which found a chasm between graduating students’ and employers’ expectations for entry-level workers.
Only one out of four employers surveyed believed that traditional universities are “doing an adequate job of preparing graduates for the workplace,” while 40 percent pointed to a “lack of skills” as the main reason behind entry-level job vacancies.
Influencers like Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama have acknowledged the threat of this educational rift, pledging billions of dollars to improve America’s tech-based educational efforts via charity and legislation, respectively.
There’s definitely reasonable doubt behind the “tech will save us all” theory. Regardless, our labor market has already gone the way of the robots, and it’s time our education system shifts to prepare students for this reality.
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