Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Myth of the "Entitlement Generation"

The younger generation in America has been labeled by the older as "entitled". However, anyone who is paying attention can see that this is not the case as twenty and thirty-somethings work much harder for much less than the generations of the last century were expected to. Particularly more so than those who grew up during America's golden age between the 1950's and late 1970's when jobs were plentiful, union membership was high, and America had the largest middle class in the entire world. Now that our labor market is bifurcated between rich and poor, workers (especially young ones), are willing to do more work for less pay (while generating more profits for the top tiers of society). 
Yes, my generation is bitter, but most of us still maintain a good work ethic and a positive attitude for any employment opportunity we could get our hands on. And why shouldn't we be bitter? We did what we were told. We went to college, got good grades, and are willing to take any entry level position to begin a career. Only now entry level means a degree plus 2-3 years experience. So how is a recent grad expected to gain experience? Often by working for free as an intern, which is usually only feasible with financial support from family, which many do not have access to. The ones that do however, gain an edge in the employment game and further the separation of wealth and opportunity. As a whole, my generation does not expect nor feel entitled to a great paying job that will afford us a house right out of college. But can you really blame us for wanting to be able to afford a one bedroom apartment and a bus pass (while at the same time being able to make our student loan payments)? 
We were told to go to college no matter what types of sacrifice it took and that as long as we majored in something that interested us we would be just fine. There were no delusions of grandiose wealth. Those who majored in art history expected to make less money than those who majored in engineering, but expected that they would be able to keep a roof over their head without struggle.  My generation was told that a college degree in any subject would show employers that we were trainable for most positions. What an archaic concept. We were told that it showed perseverance and responsibility. That is why so many of us were willing to take on debt to pay for our "good investment". 
We now have one of the most educated populations of young adults in American history who are carrying record levels of student loan debt. And the jobs to pay back this debt do not exist so we move back home because the crushing monthly payments keep us from affording our own apartments and moving on with adulthood. 
Most of us college grads do not feel that we are above doing menial work. Our bitterness comes from the fact that that the  menial jobs that are available to us do not allow for us to make our student loan payments and pay our other bills at the same time.  I and almost every college grad I have spoken to says that they would be happy to flip burgers if their student loan debt was forgiven. Because then we could afford to support ourselves. We see large corporate banks getting bailed out of their debt by the US government and while we cannot write off student loan debt in even partial bankruptcy. Unfortunately, In this pseudo-capitalist system we see socialist policies for corporations and capitalist polices for individuals. 

We don't want to be rich, we just want to survive after we have put in the hard work we were told to do so. How can anyone really call that "entitled"?

-Mrs. W.