A changed economic climate

Apparently our inability to buy a house isn’t entirely my fault. Hey, it’s always nice to shift blame!

Getting ahead gets harder

Straitened circumstances are becoming more familiar to those in their 20s and 30s as they try to get a foothold on the American Dream. Student loans, depressed wages, rising healthcare costs and soaring housing prices are creating new economic realities. Sixty percent of young adults between 18 and 34 are struggling for financial independence, says [Tamara] Draut, now the director of the economic opportunity program at Demos, a think tank in New York. She is also the author of a new book, “Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead.”

“What made the transition to adulthood somewhat less bumpy 30 years ago was that we had an economy that lifted all boats,” she says. “When productivity was increasing, so were wages. We don’t have that today. Wages certainly aren’t keeping up with the cost of things like healthcare and housing.”


Very often, social observers say, young adults living on the financial edge view their situation as simply their own fault.

“We’re so individualistic,” says Deborah Thorne, a sociologist at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. “We see this as an individual problem, and then we look to the individual for the solution. The fact is, these are national problems and they require a national solution. But this is just not on the radar of politicians. It’s not an issue with which they concern themselves. But it’s the issue the American family is concerned with.”

Young people, Draut says, feel that many Americans are doing very well. “You see Hummers on the highway, McMansions being built. It’s extremely frustrating and confusing for young adults who are living paycheck to paycheck and with five- figure student-loan debts to see young families living in million-dollar houses.”

Parents are also confused. “A lot of parents don’t understand why their kids haven’t accomplished the traditional markers of adulthood that they did — buying a home, starting a family, living without debt,” Draut says. “I don’t think there’s an awareness of how much the economic context has changed.”

We don’t have any debt at the moment, but we sure can’t seem to progress very far either…

I don’t know if I would say that everything was great 30 years ago, though. It’s not like my parents were driving new cars and living in a huge house.