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Without More Investment in the Young, Middle Class Could Disappear

Without More Investment in the Young, Middle Class Could Disappear


Written by Adele Stan, AFL-CIO

In “The State of Young America: The Databook,” the economic experts at Demos demonstrate that by virtually every measure, the fortunes of America’s young people are falling under a deluge of debt, shrinking opportunity, rising costs of living and lack of access to health care. Writing with members of the Young Invincibles think tank, the authors write:

The path that each young person takes during their young adulthood often largely determines whether they end up in the middle class as older adults. Given the nation’s current anemic levels of investment in young people, the existence of our future middle class is severely imperiled.

The Databook looks at the well-being of 18- to 34-year-olds across the span of a generation in such areas as income, higher education and family life. Notable among the findings is that as the business environment became increasingly hostile to unionization, the fortunes of young people fell. Today, the Databook tells us, only 10 percent of young people have union representation, compared with 20 percent in 1980. Consequently, with few exceptions, only those who have attained a bachelor’s degree have seen their incomes rise over the course of the past three decades. (Once exception would be those who find their way into a trade union apprenticeship.)

Among the report’s findings:

Cost of Living

  • 41.3 percent of 25-34 year-old households spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
  • Levels of credit card debt among those ages 25 to 34 have risen 81 percent since 1989, to an average of $6,255 in 2007.

Raising A Family

  • Just 11 percent of all workers had access to paid family leave benefits.
  • Child care fees for two children exceeded annual median rent payments.

Higher Education

  • Average tuition is three times higher today than in 1980
  • The student loan default rate rose 31% over just 2 years.

Health Care & Coverage

  • In only 10 years, employer-sponsored insurance dropped by 12.8 percent for workers 18-24 and 8.5 percent for workers 25-34.

This post was originally published by the AFL-CIO blog.


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Photo from Demos analysis of American community survey

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8:40AM PST on Dec 13, 2011

Could? It appears to have already happened.

11:58AM PST on Nov 16, 2011

oh, it's getting far worse than people realize

8:13AM PST on Nov 9, 2011

Middle class is getting smaller, lower class is getting larger..

5:09AM PST on Nov 7, 2011

Thanks for the article.

11:07PM PST on Nov 6, 2011

Middle class=endangered species.

7:08PM PST on Nov 6, 2011

A lot needs to change and I think the "young" are realizing that. We need to move past the place where financial status is the most important part of being alive...we need to take care of each other.

12:36PM PST on Nov 6, 2011

Housing in America = lenders getting rich from home mortgages or landlords getting rich from renters. Housing in America = people get screwed.

10:47AM PST on Nov 6, 2011

FDR started the middle class when he created Social Security, gave the G.I. Bill to returning WW11 Vets, allowed Unions to flourish. Johnson gave us Medicare, and Civil Rights. My parents benefited from these Democratic Presidents policies, as my family has.

The middle class began losing status when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers. He was the President for the rich, he lowered their taxes which increased the deficit. George W. Bush gave tax breaks to the rich which increased the deficit even more, we lost 4.7 million jobs by the time President Obama took office. During this time the Middle Class kept losing ground. The only break in that loss was the eight years that President Clinton was in office.

So, the moral to this story is: Vote Democratic for the Presidency and the Congress.

10:19AM PST on Nov 6, 2011

Who needs a middle class when you have the owners and workers. Let's build a pyramid; we have the rich pharaohs and a lot of poor people looking for something to do.

1:42AM PDT on Nov 6, 2011

The one percent continually tell us that we are middle class to divide the workers. If you work for someone you are working class, even if you work for yourself you are working class. There is no middle class. If you are several pay checks away from welfare, then you are working class. But if you can afford not to work then you are rich. If your work is your hobby then you are rich. If you work 'to keep your hand in'. You are rich. But if you work because you have to, you are working class. 
Working classes = slaves. Upper classes = slavemasters. So Middle classes = overseers, whippers' and house servants, but theres only one of those classes that are not working like dogs. We're all on the plantation people! Love your working classness'.

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