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Debunking the Myths of Youth Unemployment

By Tsion Tesfaye

If you’re young, there’s a good chance you’ve had a tough time finding a job. The unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds was over 16% last month, double the national average. Young adults have been slammed by the recession, yet myths persist about why we aren’t working. Those myths do nothing to help us get back on our feet-so I’m going to debunk them.

1.We’re too picky

Sure, young adults want to enter the workforce in their field of study.  The average student debt load is about $26,000 so it also makes sense that degree-holders want a career that allows them to pay down their debt. But as it turns out, most recent college grads are taking whatever they can get. And for young adults without a college degree, times are much tougher. We don’t do enough to invest in getting these young people trained for work.  Picky has nothing to do with it.  Young people are simply facing fewer jobs openings; they face high monetary barriers to getting a degree; and strong skills training programs do not serve enough young people.

2.We’re entitled.

Ah, the “entitlement generation.” Pundits use this term without taking into account how the recession has severely diminished the job prospects for our generation.  The truth is young Americans bore the brunt of the recession.  Check out this chart showing what many put on hold

Graphdue to the recession.


Source: The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellweather Research and Consulting on behalf of Demos and Young Invincibles:

3. We’d rather move back home with our parents

Out of all the myths circulating the Internet, I think this one bothers me the most. Yes, there’s been a significant increase of young adults moving back in with their parents in recent years, but it’s not because they prefer this arrangement. What accounts for this trend? First of all, four out of five jobs lost in the recession were held by those with no formal education; young adults without college degrees were among those hit the hardest by the recession, and had little safety to rely on beyond family. For college grads moving back home, the massive student loan debt coupled with a stagnating economy should be enough cast doubt on the notion that young adults are eager to move back home with mom and dad.

As young adults, we’re not after a free ride; we’re asking for an opportunity.  For this generation, those opportunities seem to be scarcer.