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New Analysis: Ten Years Later, Young People’s Wages Remain Exactly the Same

New Analysis: Ten Years Later, Young People’s Wages Remain Exactly the Same

Despite record low unemployment, a new analysis shows that young people’s wages have totally stagnated while the cost of higher education has skyrocketed — leaving young people behind.

Moments ago, Young Invincibles released a new fact sheet making apples-to-apples comparisons between the economic well-being of today’s young people and the same age group a decade ago.

Most notably, the analysis found that when adjusted for inflation, the wages of today’s young people have stayed exactly the same over the past decade, despite record low unemployment rates. Meanwhile, wages for college grads have actually dropped in the past decade from $1,353 per week to $1,324 per week. During that same time, the cost of a public, four-year college jumped 30 percent to an average of $21,370.

These trends are especially troubling when coupled with Georgetown’s recent analysis, which found that 95 percent of all jobs created since the Recession have gone to someone with some postsecondary education. Georgetown also estimates that by 2020 two-thirds of all jobs will require some postsecondary education.

“Young people — and especially those from communities of color or low-income communities — are increasingly facing the impossible choice between the education they objectively need to find a good job and the staggering student debt that will follow them for years after graduation,” said Soncia Coleman, Senior Director of Program for Young Invincibles. “This new analysis paints an even clearer picture that, despite record low unemployment, young people simply aren’t reaping the benefits of a supposedly flourishing economy. Their wages have stagnated, the cost of their education is skyrocketing, and states are continuing to disinvest in their higher education system. If lawmakers don’t act soon, we’re going to leave an entire generation of young people behind and bury them under debt that will impact them for the rest of their lives.”

The fact sheet, which compiles some of the latest datasets available to compute these statistics, also quantifies the skyrocketing student debt crisis and how states are continuing to pull funds from their higher education systems, leaving students to foot more of the bill.

For instance, the country’s student debt burden has more than doubled in the past ten years, jumping from $660 billion to $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, states spent an average of $8,489 per student in 2007 but spent just $7,642 per student in 2017.

These findings build on Young Invincibles’ previous analyses of the financial challenges facing young people, including last years’ Financial Health of Young America report. Among other findings, the report showed that — for the first time in history — college grads with student loan debt have a negative net wealth. The report also showed the disproportionate impact that these issues are having on young people of color.

With Congress currently considering the first reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 10 years, leaders in Washington have a real opportunity to address the causes of this crisis by investing in state-federal partnerships to make tuition more affordable, increasing Pell Grants to low-income borrowers, or making the financial aid process simpler, among other solutions.

You can read the full fact sheet here.