Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Poor economy affecting young adults beyond the scope of finding a job

Marriage and home-buying decisions put on hold for some as study reveals young adults bear the brunt of a tough economy

Young Americans are more likely to be unemployed now than at any time since World War II, and the gap in employment between this group and all working-age adults – about 15 percentage points – is the widest ever recorded, says a study by Pew Research Center

The study released on Thursday reveals that the tough economy is affecting young adults (ages 18 to 34) in a variety of ways, including influencing their decisions about when to marry, where to live and what sorts of jobs to pursue.

An increase in the percentage of young adults in high school or college has bumped down the employment rate – more than one third say that, as a result of the poor economy, they have gone back to school – although this doesn’t account for all the job losses experienced by this group in recent years. Among those enrolled in school, the employment rate fell from 48% in 2007 to 41% in 2011, while among those not enrolled in school, it fell from 73% to 65% over the same period.

Researchers at Pew decided to run a survey focused on young adults because “it looked as if something different was going on,” says Kim Parker, the lead author of the report. “We started looking at employment stats and noticed that for the 18- to 34-year-old group, the rate of employment was down, and the rate of unemployment was really up,” she says.

Almost 50% of young adults report taking a job they don’t want in order to pay the bills, with 24% saying they have taken an unpaid job to gain work experience. Approximately 20% have postponed getting married, while 22% have put off having a baby. And 24% have moved back in with their parents after living on their own.

Kathleen Cagney, a sociology professor and the director of the Population Research Center at the University of Chicago, says one consequence of people entering the labor markets later is having fewer savings for retirement. This coupled with the idea that people are potentially having fewer children could translate into people aging not only under the burden of fewer economic resources, but also a smaller support network.

Within the group, certain demographic divides appeared along the lines of race and gender. For instance, while 25% of blacks and 26% of Hispanics say owning a home is of the highest importance in their lives, only 12% of whites say the same. While 39% of women rate a successful marriage among their top priorities, only 29% of men place the same value on that. More surprisingly, although 30% of men ages 18 to 34 say they have taken an unpaid job to gain experience in recent years, only 18% of young women say they have done the same.

The Pew report is based on findings from a December survey that Pew conducted among over 2,000 adults, including about 800 young adults.

It shows that 41% of the American public believes that young adults, over middle aged or older groups, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from today’s tough economy. This aligns with data on young adults: since 2010, the share of young adults ages 18 to 24 that are currently employed has been its lowest since the government began collecting these data in 1948.

Of the entire group polled, over 82% say finding a job is harder for young adults today than it was for their parents’ generation, while 75% say it’s harder to save for the future.

Despite being short on jobs, the young adults surveyed by Pew aren’t short on optimism. About 57% say that they believed they’d have enough money to lead the types of lives they want to, despite the fact that only 31% say they currently have the income to lead the kind of life they want – the latter number was significantly higher in 2004, at 41%. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds