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.


  1. No I don't call that entitled at all,that amount of student loan debt is ludicrous even if there were jobs. I went to college in the late 80s,found a job in my field,paid off my student loans and although things didn't necessarily turn out the way I wanted at least I had the opportunity.
    I agree something needs to be done about the lack of jobs and the phenomenal student debt. It's the elephant in the room right now but it can't be ignored much longer.
    One thing that bothers me though,some people from your generation call themselves the "lost generation" which implies to me you've already given up. You haven't have you? You may need to get things changed and things may turn out for the better. I mean it's not working out for much of anyone right now,well unless you're rich or a member of congress. You are not alone.

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  3. Thanks for you comment. I do not believe that we have given up as whole. I think the term 'lost' comes from the fact that many of us feel that the special interests that influence government have become too powerful. Therefore it feels as if we are at a loss when it comes to feeling like we can implement change. I would love to write about a solution rather than just explain a problem, but I am still trying to figure out what that is.

  4. I think what I have heard about the entitlement generation is a little different. Once I was in an airport and this young lady had a magazine that she was showing to her dad that had an SUV advertistment and she said "this is the car I want when I turn 16". At least a $40,000 car. Also there are a lot of kids this days that have no concept of work, saving money, or budgeting. These people are the entitlement generation when I think of the term. Honestly, you could sum up how not to struggle in life (health issue excluded)in a pamphlet. The top advice would be:
    Work as soon as possible (I started at 14)
    Save as much as possible
    Get a used car (I have had 4) or better yet live car free (I did for 12 years)
    Live as close to work as possible
    Wait to have children for as long as possible
    Get a valuable degree (I knew my degree would not get me a good job, so I will now go back to school for something useful)
    Work hard in school and apply for scholarships, grants, and work study
    Go to a community college for the first two years, a state school for your BA/BS, save for the Ivy League when you can afford it.
    Life is hard, no one told you it would be easy unless you have a trust fund. Thinking it should be easy is the "entitlement" that people are talking about. Think about how hard your parents had to work (my mother was a nurse that worked 16 hour shifts)
    Believe me, I have a lot of sympathy for people having a hard time right now, but I have almost paid off my student loans, only 3 years to go working at a job that is very stressful not "fun". You have to leasrn to survive until you thrive. I truly believe that I could be dropped off in the middle of the Gobi desert and figure out how to survive. I would start an english school, learn how to midwife or become the best animal herder I could.

  5. I agree with you 100% - in my generation, the 1970s and 1980s, we were able to make a good living, buy a nice house in a nice area, 2 cars, and we weren't saddled with huge student loan debt. Hopefully with the economy improving your generation will be able to catch a break soon. I agree with what you said though it is harder for your generation than mine.