Over two evenings last week, 20 presidential candidates discussed their vision for the country, their qualifications to lead, and plans to solve the challenges facing the nation. But despite four hours of lively debate, some of the most pressing issues facing young Americans were largely ignored.
“The 2020 presidential campaign has officially kicked off, and young people are eager to hear the candidates’ plans for addressing the most critical issues impacting their lives,” said Rachel Fleischer, Executive Director of Young Invincibles. “While the candidates touched on some of the biggest challenges facing young people — student debt and health care — they only scratched the surface of what young people need to hear before selecting a candidate that will represent their needs. We’re a long way from choosing the nominees for President, but we need to step up the conversation now to ensure that young people’s needs are represented in this election and in our future leaders.”
Throughout both days of debate, both the moderators and candidates failed to address:
Stagnating wages for young people: Over the past decade, young people’s wages have stayed the exact same — despite record low unemployment and an economy the President calls “the best in history.” Young people need to hear the candidates’ plan to ensure today’s young people can find a good job once they graduate and achieve long-term financial security.
Helping today’s students complete college: The idea of a “traditional” student — white, in their early twenties, living on campus, and attending class full time — is an increasingly antiquated one. In fact, 24 percent of students have children or another dependent, and 49 percent of students are financially independent from their parents. So while conversations around affordability are critically important, we also need to address the unique needs of today’s students to ensure everyone can complete their education.
Addressing barriers to student voting: Students face their own unique set of challenges when trying to register to vote and actually casting their ballot. Although some candidates discussed their plans for protecting our elections, no one specifically addressed barriers students face when it comes to voting. For instance, restrictive residency requirements can make it difficult for students to prove their residency and polling locations are often located far away from campus, making it difficult to actually vote on election day. Young people voted in record numbers in the 2018 midterms, and it is critical that their voice continue to be represented at every level of government.
As the most diverse generation in history, today’s young people face their own unique set of challenges compared to previous generations. Every candidate for President must address these issues head-on and give practical solutions to ensure every young person — regardless of race, income, or any other factor — can build a financially secure future for themselves.
To begin the conversation, Young Invincibles released a 2019 policy agenda to outline the needs of young people and give legislators a path to addressing the challenges facing the most diverse generation in history.
Last week, Young Invincibles published a series of blogs featuring young people discussing in their own words what they want to hear from the presidential candidates. Any reporters interested in talking with young voters about how these issues impact their lives should email Paydon Miller at paydon.miller@