Older upper-middle-class Americans and Europeans have had a good life. When they entered the labour force, well-compensated jobs were waiting for them. The question they asked was what they wanted to do, not how long they would have to live with their parents before they got a job that enabled them to move out.
That generation expected to have job security, to marry young, to buy a house – perhaps a summer house too – and finally retire with reasonable security. Overall, they expected to be better off than their parents.
While today’s older generation encountered bumps along the way, for the most part, their expectations were met. They may have made more on capital gains on their homes than from working. They almost surely found that strange, but they willingly accepted the gift of our speculative markets, and often gave themselves credit for buying in the right place at the right time.
Today, the expectations of young people, wherever they are in the income distribution, are the opposite. They face job insecurity throughout their lives. On average, many college graduates will search for months before they find a job – often only after having taken one or two unpaid internships. And they count themselves lucky, because they know that their poorer counterparts, some of whom did better in school, cannot afford to spend a year or two without income, and do not have the connections to get an internship in the first place.
Today’s young university graduates are burdened with debt – the poorer they are, the more they owe. So they do not ask what job they would like; they simply ask what job will enable them to pay their college loans, which often will burden them for 20 years or more. Likewise, buying a home is a distant dream..