The economy has done nothing for ten years. The timeline has been made complete with the dot-com bust, housing collapse, and credit crisis. Meanwhile, inflation continues to support relatively high education, housing and commodity costs. To add insult to injury, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment rates above 10% during Spring 2010. The ranks of the underemployed and job market drop outs, however, is well over 25%. For good reason, the media has largely covered the affects upon aging baby-boomers that are facing prospects of retirement, while being shown the door-without the gold watch. Still, I find that the Lost Decade’s collateral damage being inflicted upon my brethren of 80’s babies to be equally, if not more significant.
The Lost Generation: Defined
The Generation X/Y 80’s baby is transitioning into a hostile workforce-without the proper tools to do battle. Our early years were relatively stable, in comparison to the socioeconomic and wartime revolutions experienced by prior generations. Yesterday’s revolutionaries have transformed into today’s Helicopter parents. Although well intentioned, these efforts developed the babied 80’s baby. We were awarded gold stars and certificates, just for showing up. The irony arrives part and parcel with the fact that we were always made to feel special, while doing nothing to differentiate ourselves from the group. The pampered, sense of entitlement continues to confound.
Employers, and even our own romantic partners, bristle at the caricatured Generation X/Y’er that appears to be one missed Starbucks caramel macchiato away from complete meltdown. This mentality, alongside today’s economic debacle, has retarded the maturation of America’s young adults. Our career arcs have been delayed, while traditional family planning is nearly obsolete.
I would target inflated housing costs as the primary culprit behind the damage to my peer group’s collective psyche. Providing for your self is the American Way, and necessary to bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood. Today, slapped together one-bedroom shanty-rentals are being leased out for $4,000 in Midtown Manhattan. Young, middle class living in the Big City has become next to impossible-without Mommy and Daddy footing the bill.
The Lost Generation: Expectations
Lofty expectations have been particularly traumatic for the Generation X/Y kid. Women are up in arms over what appear to be lousy marriage prospects, while suitors remain intimidated by the prospects of serving as provider-on minimum wage. Increasingly, my contemporaries appear more likely to wait out the storm by upping the ante in academia. Of course, only time will tell whether additional paper diplomas can be converted into real paper, i.e. legal tender. I fear that legions of perpetual students embrace campus life for the wrong reasons. Fear of stepping up the plate as a working adult, is a great motivator.
Still, there is reason for hope. These trying times can only increase resiliency for the up-and-coming. Successful go-getters are now jack-of-all trades that have learned to diversify their education and talents into multiple streams of income. 80’s babies now prioritize resourcefulness above consumption. Thankfully, the debt-laden Bling Era of McMansions, luxury whips, and gaudy jewelry, is indeed finished.
The Lost Generation, Sources:
U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Managing Generation X, http://www.opm.gov/perform/articles/dec98-5.asp
FDIC, Scenarios for the Next U.S. Recession, http://www.fdic.gov/bank/analytical/fyi/2006/032306fyi.html
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm,