Home > Uncategorized > Judging the Present Based on the Past = Undue Criticism of Millenials

Judging the Present Based on the Past = Undue Criticism of Millenials

Freelance writer Livia Gershon’s JStor Weekly post, “When We Grow Up“, led me to the conclusion described in the title of this post. Ms. Gershon cites the 2005 work of researchers Jordan Stanger-Ross, Christina Collins, and Mark J. Stern who examined the five milestones often seen as marks of adulthood— leaving school, leaving parents’ homes, entering the workforce, marrying, and establishing new households— and determined that the era I grew up in, the 1950s through 1960s, was an anomaly. Several factors converged during that time period that made the transition from adolescence to adulthood relative easy:

By the post-war boom years, children were staying in school longer and entering the workforce later. At the same time, rising wages, abundant credit, and expanding government support for home purchases meant young adults could marry and set up a household earlier. Suddenly, you could graduate from high school, find a steady job, marry, and buy a house practically all at the same time.

Since that time, the forces that made this transition to adulthood possible have weakened. Wages are stagnant, credit, and government support for housing have diminished, and the cost for post-secondary education has skyrocketed. Given those factors, it is not surprising that “Millennials” are marrying later, waiting to buy homes, and struggling to find meaningful employment.

The conditions of the workforce are beyond the scope of Ms. Gershon’s article, but the changes in the structure of the workforce from the 1950s and 1960s through today are different as well. In that era college graduates were expected to work for one employer for their entire career and that employer, in return, would ensure the employee had sufficient wages and benefits and timely updates (i.e. professional development) to keep them abreast of developments in the sector of the economy the organization served.

The era I grew up in is not the era my children grew up in, nor is it the era my grandchildren are growing up in. As I reflect on it, I was not only fortunate to be born in America to two college educated parents who cared for me, I was fortunate to come of age in the 1950s and 1960s, the post-war era (that) was a blip in a larger pattern of how young adults have grown up in America.

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