Bad Economy Puts Younger Workers Behind the Eight Ball

by Staff - Original publish date: April 2, 2012

The young people of America are taking jobs they don't want, moving back in with their parents, and delaying marriage and children as they struggle with a still-uncertain economy, according to survey results released recently by the Pew Research Center. And yet, despite the economy's ill effects, young adults remain optimistic about their financial future, the report concluded. 

In 2011, young people had a harder time finding work than any other age group. While the overall unemployment rate last year was 8.8 percent, young adults from age 18 to 24 had a jobless rate of 16.3 percent, according to numbers Pew compiled from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics; among those 25 to 29, 10.3 percent were out of work. 

And this challenging environment is affecting how young people live their lives.

Half of the adults between the ages of 18 and 34 who responded to the survey said they have, over the past few years, taken a job they didn't really want, just to pay the bills. On the flip side, 24 percent said they had taken an unpaid job for the work experience.

In the same age group, 24 percent reported moving back in with their parents to save money, 22 percent said they had put off having a baby because of economic concerns, and 20 percent had postponed plans to get married. 

While the economy affects young people's choices on the road to autonomous adulthood, it may also be changing how others see these choices. 

In a 1993 Pew Center survey, 80 percent of parents said young adults should be financially independent from their parents by age 22. That number dropped to 67 percent in the latest survey. And a growing segment of parents -- 31 percent, up from 18 percent -- felt young people should have until at least age 25 to achieve self-reliance. 

Despite the delays and obstacles young people feel the economy has created, they are still positive about their futures, according to the Pew report. 

Among respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, 88 percent said they either make enough money now or are confident they will do so in the future. This number is up slightly from 2004, when 84 percent of young adults reported the same level of satisfaction with their earnings. 

And their optimism extends into future generations, as well. Among people 18 to 34, 60 percent of respondents believe their children's standard of living will be better than their own. Meanwhile, just 43 percent of older respondents expressed the same confidence.