Two Economic Directions for a Generation


We hear a lot of stereotypes about young adults in America today — that they’re soft snowflakes who can’t take criticism and think the world owes them ease and security.  Posts like this one by Helen Smith reinforce that view, noting that there is a 500,000-man gap of 25-to-34-year-olds who should be in the workforce but aren’t:

The colleges are hostile environments and bad fits for many of these men who know that they will not flourish there. Add in the risks of marriage for these men and the fact that many women don’t want them and leisure time playing video games seems like a better alternative, particularly if you can live at home to support a good time. It’s kind of like they are on strike or something.

Instead of punching a clock, they’ve checked out.  They live at home or collect some sort of disability or welfare subsidy.  Maybe they extend their educations (perhaps as a condition of the government’s or mom and dad’s indulgence), following up their useless four-year degrees by spending more of their youth chasing a career-specific education, or maybe they put themselves in a holding pattern, with no degrees or pursuits, just waiting for something to happen.  They’re looking for an easy path and draining their parents’ or taxpayers’ resources.

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On the other hand, there’s this encouraging bit of news:

Generation Z—those who were born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s—are more often turning to trade schools to avoid the skyrocketing student debt crisis and hone skills that translate directly into jobs, from electrical engineering to cosmetology. While the power of trade unions has dwindled, and societal value still favors more elite professions, young students are finding themselves drawn to stable paychecks in fields where there’s an obvious need.

The appended podcast has the headline: “The Hot New Gen-Z Trend Is Skipping College.”  Per this narrative, young adults want to work, and their rational assessment of current conditions is finally overcoming a cultural bias for a particular direction.  More kids should go into the trades.  They provide a path with tremendous opportunity, life lessons, and fulfillment.

With a broader perspective, we can see the operation of our economy.  The young adults in the first group are spending down what their parents have earned, and the young adults in the second group are preparing to collect it, thus shifting our society’s wealth toward those who advance our economy.  This will be healthy if the government doesn’t interfere… but it will.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I have known a number of “Professionals” who “looked around” and quit. Because of the nature of my associations, they have largely turned to real estate. Home builders, developers, etc. I know an excavation contractor who taught Fine Arts at Harvard (his basement has bas reliefs of gladiators). A mason contractor who previously taught at Brown. Both left to help out an ill father, but they never came back. A home builder I know has polo ponies. These are all “smart guys”.

    I heard the other day that the average age of a plumber in Massachusetts is 55, and relatively few are entering the trade. Think about that. If you started at 20 and put off the Corvette, you could be pretty well off by the time you are 30. My plumber, in his 50’s, just left for Arizona. He swears that if he “just takes a job”, he would expect $100,000. He couldn’t even hire another plumber here (or so he claimed)