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Young Adults Hit Hardest By Recession: Pew

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Over 40% of adults surveyed by Pew Social Trends say that America’s young adults, those between 18 and 34, have suffered more through this recession than their older counterparts. This belief is founded on a high and stagnant unemployment rate for that age group, as well as a more pronounced decrease in weekly earnings. Pew released its findings in a report, “Young, Underemployed and Optimistic: Coming of Age, Slowly, in a Tough Economy,” on Feb. 9.

While unemployment has punished Americans of all ages, at just 54% of working young adults, the group between the ages of 18 and 24 has seen its lowest employment since 1948. Roughly 15 percentage points separate employment of young workers and workers of all ages, according to Pew. Young full-time workers have seen their earnings fall 6% over the past five years, more than any other age group, the report found.

Society appears to agree that young people are having a hard time. More than 80% of all respondents say it’s harder for young adults to find a job than it was for their parents’ generation. As a result, half of 18- to 34-year-olds say they’ve taken a job they didn’t want just because they needed it. Almost one-quarter say they’ve taken unpaid work to gain experience and 35% say they’ve gone back to school. Three-quarters of all respondents say it’s harder now to save for the future, to pay for college (71%) or to buy a home (69%).

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These struggles have affected other parts of young adults’ lives, too. Twenty percent have put off getting married and 22% have waited to have a baby because of the economy. Nearly a quarter have moved back to their parents’ house after living on their own, and parents are becoming more accepting of supporting their adult children. A Newsweek poll in 1993 found that 80% of parents with young children said kids should be financially independent by 22, Pew found. Now just 67% of parents agree.

Despite these setbacks, young adults remain relatively optimistic. Only 9% of respondents between 18 and 34 say they will never have enough money to live the way they want. Adults over 35 have a much darker picture; 28% say they’ll never have enough money.  

In December, Pew surveyed over 2,000 adults, including 808 between the ages of 18 and 34. The report also uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to support its findings.