August 9, 2020
Today young people in school or entering the job market face enormous socio-economic challenges. Their economic and social vulnerability is pervasive especially for those young people who lack a college degree, and particularly if they are female or nonwhite. When job creation is reduced, as it is with the pandemic youth unemployment is the most likely to soar.
In “good times’ youths are three times more likely to be unemployed than people over 25. In the pre-pandemic era 53 million people were employed in low wage jobs with median incomes of $10.22 per hour. Youths comprised 24% of these workers. They also represent the largest group or workers laid off during the pandemic.
Youths who don’t complete college are are also more likely, at 23%, to work in jobs considered to be at “near-term” risk in construction, manufacturing, and real estate. These jobs are less likely to provide “benefits” such as health insurance, sick leave, or parental leave.
The picture is not as bleak for college graduates. This cohort often faces the derailment of first jobs and internships but they tend to be more resilient than their peers who lack degrees. Some analysts believe that Gen C’s resiliency from job loss is due to some of the group returning to finish college or graduate school.
The demand for finishing college and for graduate school attendance generally rises in poor economic times but there is a growing fear that higher education may cost more than it ultimately benefits. Effective K-12 education will also be challenging during the pandemic, especially for youth from low-income communities. Their school districts often lack the capacity to provide quality virtual learning and students from low income communities can lack access to computers and Broadband Internet.
The pandemic also is taking its toll on the mental health of Generation C. It is estimated that one half of adolescents and youths, 18-29, have symptoms of depression. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in people under 35. A mental health crisis, already appearing, seems likely to worsen.
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ National suicide prevention hotline website.