There have been maybe eight million articles written on The Recession and how it has been affecting Those Young People and most especially how None Of Us Have A Job. This article from GOOD Magazine on being “Young, Educated and Unemployed” is not wildly different, except that 1) it is more recent than the other articles, indicating that this is still happening, 2) it actually sounds like the situation might be even worse than I thought, and 3) it comes when I have recently gotten a raise at my day job, which brings me up to the wage their profiled sad-sack twentysomething is earning. (@good)
The people profiled in this article are certainly indicative of a specific kind of economic failure – they went to expensive colleges and have Master’s degrees and six figures of debt, they really like books and being smart. Specifically, “curating museum exhibits, making comic books, [and] being a curious person.” Also they all have to work low-wage jobs – Luke Stacks, the “protagonist” of the article, works at a home-electronics chain. Some of them don’t work low-wage jobs because they’ve decided on principle that they won’t take any job they could also have qualified for before six years of expensive education – this seems insane to me or like they possibly live in an alternate universe where feeling good about yourself is more important than paying your bills, but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is simple: this sucks. There is no other real point. I would mention that it doesn’t suck quite as much as it does for those people who have ALWAYS been unemployed or underemployed – for instance, black men as a demographic, or those people who can’t afford (or convince themselves that they can afford) hundreds of thousands of dollars of education. But people who have always had it tough continuing to have it tough doesn’t make as good a story as the newly unfortunate. And you know what, it does really suck. It actually sucks even worse than I thought! Jesus Christ!
Apparently – and this is genuinely terrifying – “the economic effects aren’t temporary.”
Lisa Kahn, an economist at Yale’s School of Management, tracked the wages of white men who graduated from college before, during, and after the 1980s recession. Over a 20-year period, those who graduated in the peak of the recession earned $100,000 less than those who finished college before or after the economic downturn… the longer one spends in a non-degree job, the less likely one is to ever join the college-educated labor force.
$100,000 is so much money! It’s even more money I don’t have than the amount of money I don’t have/owe to other institutions right now, and that’s saying a lot! The implied question – in both this article and our lives – is “Was it worth it?” The papers on the signification of music in Toni Morrison’s work, the independent studies on German film, the PhD program in Victorian literature? I don’t know. The people in this article are starting to feel like maybe not, and there are days I feel that way too. On the other hand, those days are also the ones where I write internet web log articles for an online magazine – maybe you’ve heard of it, autostraddle dot com – and because of my expensive education they don’t need to be copyedited much which is good or even necessary because we can’t pay a copywriter. Or anyone else to write articles, really. So I don’t know. There’s no real takeaway here. Maybe People Like Me aren’t being somehow left out in the cold; maybe this is how things are now, maybe the heat has just stopped working and we’re all in it together. Maybe I need to justify my student loans. Or this really is just how we live now! Long live the future.