Millennials By the Numbers

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Heather McGhee is the director of the Washington office of Demos, a non-partisan policy and research center. In November, Demos released The State of Young America: Economic Barriers to the American Dream. The 70-page report provides a great snapshot of what life is like for 18- to 34-year-old Americans today.

Below are some highlights from that report.

According to McGhee, Millennials are more diverse than Generation X or Baby Boomers. In 1995, according to the Pew Research Center, Gen Xers were 68 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic, 14 percent Black, 3 percent Asian and 1 percent Other. Compare that with Baby Boomers, who in 1978 were reported to be 77 percent white, 9 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Black and 2 percent Asian.

Unemployment rates among younger Millennials is nearly twice the national average. And income rates are falling for young men who are working full-time. Median income rates for young men have dropped 10 percent from 1980 to 2010. In the Demos report, nearly “60 percent of survey respondents said they would rather be working and earning more; not surprising given their falling incomes, particularly for less-educated young men.”

Young men with only a high school diploma are earning 25 percent less in 2010 than they did in 1980 — a loss of over $10,000.

Only workers with at least a bachelor’s degree saw a substantial increase in earnings over a generation. However, tuition at public universities nearly tripled since 1980. Students struggling to pay for college are enrolling part-time and working longer hours.

Federal financial aid has shifted from a grant-based system to more of a loan-based system. Last year, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time in American history.

Default rates on student loans have risen sharply since the economic downturn. In the Demos survey, “financial barriers” was the top reason students said they were dropping out of school.

Despite these statistics, most Millennials remain hopeful about their future. Over 70 percent of the Demos survey participants said that they still believe in the American Dream.

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  • Mindwalk92

    Come on Bill and Heather. It is not just the Mellennials that are having these problems. I have children ages 37, 41 and 43. One has gone through forclosure, one has spent over two years finding a fulltime job (a single father with two kids) and one, with her husband, has a combined college loan debt of $60,000 (plus two little girls to worry about). I do not think this is the “American Dream.” The future does not just look bleak for the Millennials.

    My husband and I are both over 60. I have been unemployed for over two years and cannot find a job. I am in good health and want to work. We need the money for our retirement and medical. My husband has had two of his pensions reduced ( he will get $226 a month after almost 20 years of work) and his 401K is in the toilet. We are looking at him retiring after her turns 70 or older. If Social Security is raided we will be living under a bridge and that is no joke. As far as unemployment rates and decreased salaries goes, I believe we are all seeing our wages go down and our unemployment rates skyrocket. I do not believe the reported unemployment rates. I think they are much much higher.

    I would like to know what the unemployment rate is for people over 50 who want to work like I do? At least the younger generations have more time to change things before they hit the “golden years?”

  • tata

    I am thrilled that Bill is back like most of you are!! I have really learned alot from Bill’s program’s and I hope you last 100 years more Bill ! We need thinkers like you that makes us young folks think deep about various issues in life, politics, economics, etc… Welcome back my dear comrade!!!

  • Steve Colca

    I don’t think Bill is leaving you out of this at all.  He likes to focus on certain demographics at a time.  As a part of the millenials, it is sad to see how much college loans have increased over these years.  He is basically saying what is going to happen when we become older, it has gotten as bad as it is right now….we shall see how it goes.

    There is no doubt most americans are in trouble, and he has touched on the housing markets, the banks, etc.  Don’t feel left out, I am sure Bill is well aware of your generation too.

  • mckhbnpc

    Thank you for returning. You seem to be the only media host that asks the right questions in a no nonsense yet respectful manner. I had stopped watching current event/interview programs because for the most part sensationalism, poor manners and an apparent inability to follow up on glaring inconsistencies seem to be the rule rather than the exception as far as other program moderators go. I worry about our ability to be well informed in this country if there is nobody to take your place.

  • Mindwalk92

    Maybe Bill is not leaving my generation out but I think that anything that divides us is not good.  We have ALL got to work together and not get caught up in the, “We are the Baby Boomers and they are the Millennials” thinking. I believe that is part of what many are missing in this country be it blue, purple or red. We cannot afford to think that somehow we are different and I think Bill needs to reinforce that idea. If you get to the heart of the matter we all want the same basic things out of life and for our children. At some point we have got to join forces and oust the 1%. The sacrifice of a few for the many. Even though I am older I have been involved in peace marches, boycotts against big banks, Occupy Wall Street, saving the unions, the list goes on and on.  If we don’t have the kind of money that the 1% has at least if we join together we have another kind of power, mass.

    I am glad Bill is back too. I just wish he had a nightly program because like most of you I don’t think there is much out there that is worth watching or listening to.

  • UncleJeffy

    As a previous guest said to Mr. Moyers (see your 1st program this season), we are becoming Egypt.  The power elite control all the wealth and the government.  They and the military get the best and unlimited funds.  The other 99% get the crumbs.  As most know (but may not admit), the budget issues couldnt be solved even if we rid ourselves of everything except social security, medicare and defense – we’d still have a budget deficit.  However, that isnt really the point.  The real point is our hope for a (yes a, not the) future.

    I am not a Millennial.  I am just over 40.  Us Gen X’ers are born 1970 to 1978 -seven years for a whole generation- and we are lost in more ways than one.  We too, perhaps even more than Millennials, are in deep trouble, as not only do we share the problems charted above, but we are at least 10 years older.  As wages and benefits disappear, we are left with careers (if we are lucky enough to have them) that are on a downward trend – just struggling to keep a job in the face of mass firings – er I mean layoffs, etc.  Forget retirement or even long term investing.  Personally, our 401K, mostly in very “safe” bonds, tanked and is still not back to 2007 levels.  Pensions?  Ha – what’s that!  Soon, we all will see the “benefits” of investing our own non-secured funds for our own “retirement.”  Wait ’til we try to live off of it.  

    We are 10 years from being like those now over 50.  I.e. we are near the “zone” where our age will be a factor.  Those younger than us are energetic but experience-stupid.  That is, they have great talents but haven’t been burned for half their careers.  They have yet to see the company is not interested in them for their career contributions, just until the next stock holder’s meeting.  They, like us, are expendable. 
    In 30 years, those who are 18 will be 48 – those 34 will be 74 – i.e. in our shoes.  In their future, they will be forced to reconcile the failed policies of today with their present day situation then.  Their parents (us) will be old, weak, poor, and probably sick.  The choice will be between invoking real and immediate social reforms to take save us all, or let us die.  The few social programs left will have been stretched by the boomers, many of whom think today’s policies are not austere enough, as long as they still get “theirs.”  (In Nov. 2010, 85% of 65+ aged people voted Republican).  And, there are a number of those my age who haven’t thought past the next trip to Vegas or kid’s soccer game.  That is, they ignore what they would have to severely sacrafice in order to change or resist our present situation.  They continue to buy gadgets and self indulge rather than think AND take action for the long term and what really matters.  It will be up to the Millenials to overlook ours and our parents greed and save us despite our transgressions.   And, it will have to happen in opposition to a corporate/government alliance (in other places they call this fascism) that is bent on commandeering everything for themselves.

    I have lived my life thus far wanting, hoping, and advocating a better, if not humane,  future.  I have come to realize that though this is possible, I will likely not live to see it.  While change seems to happen in other places, this country seems to move at a snails’ pace.  The next defining moment (excepting another “real” war – the current ones are like the Yankees playing a little league team) will be when the Millenials are in ours and our parents’ present positions.

    Ironically, Milennials do fit in quite well right now.  They are as doomed as we are.  They just have more blind hope.  I hope as they begin to “see,” they make some drastic changes.  

  • david

    Dear Mr Moyers:

    As a 67 year old, I have had the privilege to observe your passion for balanced (and TRUTHFUL) journalism for many years.   I am delighted that you are back on PBS sounding the alarm (for those who will listen) about the purposeful and incestuous destruction of our country that congress and the 1% have been perpetrating on the U.S.A.  

    As an American, you demonstrate the best in responsible citizenship (I have shared with my children that you,  Ken Burns, and Martin Luther King are my citizen heros…each of you has lifted up America to benefit all of us).
    Keep up the Good Work…..our country needs your voice and passion for justice ( and to shine a bright light into the “DARK mess “) now more that ever!

    David Prin

  • Anonymous

    This was a terrific show.  I think it would be more relevant to show  employment statistics for both men and women, instead of just for men.   There is still a gender gap in pay, and the current economy has exacerbated that.  There  is also a gap in income according to race.
    I have read the articulate comments of people who belong to a different age group than the Millenials, expressing the impacts of the unequal distribution of wealth upon their own generation. The impacts are indeed different upon a GenX or Baby Boomer, but at the root of all of those impacts is the massive transfer of wealth upward to a few and the abandonment of our social contract.  That is the unifying narrative among us all.
    I hope that this show will provide a similar platform to express the views of other generations.  The millennial segment was an eye opener for me.  Imagine- student debt has exceeded credit card debt…. As a baby boomer, with my own grim generational concerns, I’m still trying to wrap my head around being 23 years old with 40k in student loans…  

  • David

    You are correct concerning unemployment. It is easily researched in our government websites. Just Google it. The Clinton administration redefined the entire employment/unemployment schematic in 1994 to be a much more accurate view of the situation than had previously been available. The “U6″ is the standard today (“U” standing for unemployed obviously), that is, six levels of unemployment and how each is defined. When the media reports unemployment figures and politicians spout them, they only report the top three, meaning “U 1-2-3″ which gives us the figure we constantly hear over and over until it becomes “truth.” But when all six levels are indeed combined, unemployment skyrockets, to well over 15%, and many believe this is low. During the worst of this depression it was over 25%. e.g. Benefits need to be renewed every six months. If in this time period you find full time work for six weeks, or say part-time work for three months, and then become unemployed again, you are not counted as unemployed for the rest of that six month period. You will again be counted in the next period. This is occurring en-mass because of temp-work situations. Someone gets some temp-work for a while, then is laid off, until they get temp work again. If they do this in every six month time period, even though they begin receiving benefits for the remaining time, they are still no longer counted. This is just one of the lower “U6″ levels that are never reported, that is, the under employed, or temporarily employed. Also, an interesting quirk occurs when the two year long unemployment benefits run out on laid off workers: they are just no longer counted, at all. It’s as if they just evaporated into the ionosphere somewhere. It is a manipulative tactic on the part of politicians and the corporate owned government to cover how bad the situation is. So, if you receive benefits because you can’t find a job, you are considered unemployed. When benefits run out, even though you have no job, are you….unemployed? And therefore still counted as so? Nope. You just aren’t counted, at all. An amazing hat trick.