By many measures, the U.S. economy has spent most of the past six-plus years getting better: Unemployment has fallen by half to 5 percent, 12 million jobs have been created and household wealth is atrecord highs. Specific industries and regions seem to be doing well. But those averages belie exactly how uneven the gains have been spread.

No demographic group has suffered more from this disparate distribution of economic progress than the 25-34 age cohort (if we include college-age students, that increases the age range to 18-34). This group, despite all of the data showing improvements in the broader economy, continues to significantly endure economic hardship.

I was reminded of this recently when perusing some of the data on U.S. Census website. More millennials are living in poverty and fewer are employed or own homes, compared with baby boomers in 1980. The impact of graduating in a recession is more than a temporary setback; research has shown that it has lasting effects on a person’s career and their lifetime incomes.

While many pundits and politicians blame student debt, the most recent data suggest that borrowing to attend college isn’t the prime cause of young adults’ woes. Student debt is “generally not holding back those who earned degrees,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Most of those who have trouble with debt failed to earn the degree that leads to the higher income needed to repay loans.

When we do dive into the economic data, what we find is pretty basic: a lack of affordable housing.

This manifests itself in in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living at home . . .


Continues here: It’s Been Rough Coming of Age in the New Century

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