Generation Y Wakes Up From The American Dream, Faces An American Nightmare

Tyler Durden's picture

Three and a half years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, the earnings and employment gap between those in the under-35 population and their parents and grandparents threatens to unravel the American dream of each generation doing better than the last. We have noted a number of times that these divides are growing and warned of the social tension this could create and, as Bloomberg notes, it does not appear to be getting any better, Generation Y professionals entering the workforce are finding careers that once were gateways to high pay and upwardly mobile lives turning into detours and dead ends. "This generation will be permanently depressed and will be on a lower path of income for probably all of their life - and at least the next 10 years," as middle-income jobs are disappearing. A 2009 law school graduate sums it up rather succinctly: "I had a lot of faith in the system, the mythology that if you work really hard you can achieve anything, and the stock market always goes up. It was pretty naïve on my part."


Via Bloomberg:

Generation Y professionals entering the workforce are finding careers that once were gateways to high pay and upwardly mobile lives turning into detours and dead ends. Average incomes for individuals ages 25 to 34 have fallen 8 percent, double the adult population’s total drop, since the recession began in December 2007. Their unemployment rate remains stuck one-half to 1 percentage point above the national figure.


Three and a half years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, the earnings and employment gap between those in the under-35 population and their parents and grandparents threatens to unravel the American dream of each generation doing better than the last. The nation’s younger workers have benefited least from an economic recovery that has been the most uneven in recent history.

which is leading to an increasingly disenfranchised generation:

“This generation will be permanently depressed and will be on a lower path of income for probably all of their life -- and at least the next 10 years,” says Rutgers professor Cliff Zukin, a senior research fellow at the university’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Professionals who start out in jobs other than their first choice tend to stay on the alternative path, earning less than they would have otherwise while becoming less likely to start over again later in preferred fields, Zukin says.




Only one-fifth of those who graduated college since 2006 expect greater success than their parents, a Rutgers survey found earlier this year. Little more than half were working full time. Just one in five said their job put them on a career path.

As the dream fades:

“I had a lot of faith in the system, the mythology that if you work really hard you can achieve anything, and the stock market always goes up,” says 2009 law school graduate Elizabeth Hallock, 33. “It was pretty naïve on my part.

And fingers are pointed:

Hallock is the named plaintiff in one of 14 lawsuits against some of the nation’s best-known law schools, including her alma mater, the University of San Francisco School of Law. The civil complaints, filed in 2011 and 2012, accuse the institutions of overstating graduates’ job-placement results and incomes.


Young Americans are struggling to reconcile their lack of economic rewards with their relatively privileged upbringings by Baby Boomer parents and the material success of their older peers, Generation X, born in the late 1960s and 1970s...

But whose fault is it?

“It’s a generation that had really high expectations, in some part driven by the way they were raised by their boomer parents,” she says. “Yet in the past five years they have had reality slammed in their face by the employment situation.”


The same housing crash that hammered young architects and loan officers also slammed lawyers. Law schools are turning out about 45,000 degree holders a year for about 25,000 full-time positions available to them, according to the National Association for Law Placement Inc. in Washington. The class of 2011 had the lowest placement with law firms, 49.5 percent, in 36 years.


“It is not the perfect path to wealth and success that people may have envisioned,” says Robin Sparkman, editor in chief of The American Lawyer magazine in New York.

Which is leading to lawsuits - by the new lawyers against their schools...

“It’s hard to look at the information the schools were putting out and say it’s not misleading,” says Derek Tokaz, research director of the nonprofit Law School Transparency initiative. It published research showing that the chance of recent graduates getting permanent full-time work in law was far lower than the 80-95 percent total employment rates the schools typically boasted.

But for some - a new different life is peeking through...

“As it is, all of my possessions still fit in the back of my truck,” she says. “I can pack it in a couple hours, pick up the trailer and horses and move anywhere the gas tank will take me at the drop of a hat. What can the system take away from you when you have that kind of freedom?

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shovelhead's picture


Because the magic marker on the Delmonte peas shelf isn't even going to get a chance to dry before they have to change it from $.79 to .89 to .99 etc.

"WTF! $1.29? It said $.79."

"Sir, you put that in your cart 15 minutes ago."

Freddie's picture

Thank deval patrick's brother aka the muslim. Yup. Hyperinflation here we come. Helped on by Kennedy voters of Massachusetts.

SmittyinLA's picture

Gen Y is irrelevant, they were replaced by generation mexican  

Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus's picture

I think, in fairness, that if you're being boxed out vocationally by someone who has no education, doesn't speak the language, and owns little more than some old Levi's and a t-shirt most hipsters would assume must be ironic... you were fucking up and losing out well before Perdo crossed the Rio Grande, no?

venturen's picture

When the dollar goes to zero...they will head back to mexico

Chaos_Theory's picture

Just wait till Gen Y realizes they can cross the Rio Grande in the opposite direction.  Better weather, hotter women (at least in their 20s), awesome food, plenty of work replacing dead cartel hands.  If they're really smart, they'll keep heading South into Central and South America. 

Freddie's picture

They will neeed to be very tough. Mexico is brutal on illegals and little Johnny Gen Y might get his head cut off by the cartel.

Central and South America may be the future. 

etresoi's picture

Oh yeah, the amerikan dream.  What will it take for you fools to see reality for what it is and get out, while you can.

MaxMax's picture

The problem with starting a war to "employ" our young people is that it doesn't really solve much.  If we could start a war which could be fought with all people on Social Security, pensions, medicare and all the various entitelments and unfunded future benefits, then we might make progress on liquidating all those future promises.

What does sending off a young person with no assets and likely debt do for you?  It just makes the problem worse.  More likely is that all those young people who don't have jobs can lead to civil unrest.  Eventually, the young are more likely to start a revolution in order to repudiate all the claims on their future labor.

venturen's picture

Tim Geithner the Manchurian...president NY Fed 2003-2009 and head of Tressury 2009-2012 can't do his own taxes and has brought the country to its knees with Batman Ben! FU Giethner & Bernanke!!!

IridiumRebel's picture

I am a Gen X'r. I am going back to school for another degree. I will then get my Masters and beyond. The kids I go to school with are very in tune with how they are being fucked. They are answering that by getting even more education. They are beginning to awaken to the fact that no matter how much they educate themselves, it is a numbers issue. The jobs can only supply so many people with employment and the rest are SOL. They are pissed. When the whole school debt bubble begins to implode, then you will see them harness that angst. I did not vote for more free shit. I voted for solving our debt problem, but hence the free shit grabbers overrode me. Our debt is going to kill us....slowly. I wrote my senior thesis on the debt bubble and Fed/Fed Gov that is monetizing our debt and the fact that our empire is in serious decline. Of the 14 others in my class, half wrote their papers on the same or similar subject. They are aware and many will be standing next to you as we tear down the walls of TPTB. This will only go on for so long, but have faith in these youngins. I see the fire below. Information will be the fuse.

Kastorsky's picture

but TPTB is the heart of you "empire in decline".

W/o TPTB - no empire, which means your Master's will guarantee you income parity with chinese or sri lankan.

WillyGroper's picture

migh want to educate yourself in some ag & animal husbandry.

signed: Boomer   ;oD

Angus McHugepenis's picture

Iridium: Good post. Happynewchristmasyearhanukkahwhatever.


cxl9's picture

Close the law schools for a generation. We have more laws and more lawyers than we can afford now. Or, even better, make it illegal to teach anything except Chinese law in the law schools. Let them go over there and ruin China's economy.

ZFiNX's picture

As an under 35-year-old, as long as the gov't continues to subsidize me, I don't really care if I work or not.

Yes, we're turning Japanese. I THINK we're turning Japanese. I really think so..

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

At least give a link to your reference!



Btw - 35% of Japanese males under the age of 35 are still virgins, are you claiming what I think you're claiming?

ZFiNX's picture

That is a really terrible statistic. I lie in the majority, fortunately. In America, you can still be broke and get laid, just look at all our welfare recepients.

q99x2's picture

A 2009 law school graduate

The only thing worse than a bankster is a lawyer. With fewer jobs for lawyers the economy should start to heal naturally. They are the scum of scum.

AynRandFan's picture

And the worst of them are the lawyers sitting on the bench.  After 20 years of law practice, my second career, I wouldn't recommend it.  Here's the business model:  unlimited personal liability combined with clients who are mostly liars and a judicial system that produces random results.

Slightly Insane's picture


"They are the scum of the scum",

I would suggest that the scum of the scum are represented in the HR and Senate, as they are largely "lawless lawyers".  The economy will not heal naturally.  The taxes and fees will draw out whatever surplus (used to be called PROFIT) that ever existed in a trade, service, or product.  The black market will replace the taxed market. 

Then there is the "dumbest of dumb" or whatever you call folks who vote themselves an entitlement.  They will surely be made to pay for their ignorance.

AynRandFan's picture

The bright side is, Gen Y doesn't want to work anyway.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

Please feel free to do a GREP on my comments, and when I stated that Obama was going to force the GOP into total war over the budget, then ram through a $3 trillionish infrastructure package (roughly ~ a month or so ago). This is the playbook, and this is what is being touted. Democrats are already on board for this, and given China's data in the up coming months, plus APPL & AMZN "returning to the USA", with returning troops (2013/14), the GOP won't have the support to even complain about it.

The only real question is how much tiresome bitching and bad PR Congress is willing to go through to get there. Try this from the National Review [Republican / RINO bias], which just shows how hollow things are getting in the Cayman Islands. The only real question is the demographic that the workers will come from ~ State by State, the real dealing will be over which blue-collar section gets the contracts. Expect more than a couple of Republicans to seek to "make themselves appealing" to latino demographics by selling off those contracts. It's about the only way the GOP gets to exist by 2016.


Oh, and there's three Republican States that desperately need to address their ill-thought out "no illegal immigrant workers, zero tolerance" issues before next harvest, otherwise they'll bankrupt what remaining agriculture they have left after the various droughts continue. (Btw, John Corziolony was spotted recently, he's looking a little rough around the edges and hasn't worn a suit in a while). Hint: expect the "aquamarine" card, or strictly limited to one work sector Green cards.


And, yes, young jedi...





It isn't called "Generation Y". Generation X -> Transitionals (born 1978-1982) -> Millennials (1982 >) (as in "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (2000)"). It's the transitionals you need to watch out for, by the way ~ interesting bunch.

thedrickster's picture

I'm a transitional.

Interesting so?

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

How serious an answer do you want?


#1 Boxing Day Flippant & Funny

#2 Boxing Day Maudlin & Honest

#3 Boxing Day Abject & Cynical


Your choice!




Source on that Fox News (and CNN) downturn on viewing figures, you got me mid edit.

thedrickster's picture


That PS wasn't intended for me.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

#3 for 10. <gets another glass of wine for this>

Transitionals understand the internet, and came of age during its infancy [1995-2000], but also remember a time when mobile phones didn't really exist, full-spectrum advertising was still a bit shitty / sparse (and certainly not tailored to their personal desires), and social media was, at best if you were "edgy", myspace. Oh, and pr0n took a good 20 mins to load, especially with this noise attached to it. Socially, the drugs were also good in this period: specifically MDMA, but still 100% illegal; none of this oxycontin / ritalin / adderall pseudo-legal stuff: either you did it, broke the law, or didn't. Mummy wasn't there making sure the nice doctor wrote you a script for drugs: "Do, or do not, there is no try". There's a very definite split here between the transitionals and the millennials. Add to that - the last generation where "talking / hanging out" was not mediated by electronics, but with the advantage you could actually call a friend without your parents potentially listening in on the line.

Economically, those who were IT based made it large, as did the financial set, as the two forces got it on post-1980's crashes [and then made their own; dotcom 1.0 and so on], while the traditional job market that Gen X was sold on was still being touted as "the way forward". There's a large split in this demographic, falling between the "phew-just-made-the-last-gravy-train-outta-the-shit-hole" to "ye-Gods-I'm-the-last-sucker-in-this-game-and-I'll-never-make-the-pension-or-partner". The millennials are basically fucked in this, barring the tech"entrepreneurs" who are so self-deluded that they imagine that the FaceBook IPO was "value for money" and have their jargon making so far up their own arses that they need a bleach enema.

They're also the last generation where having children / a family was available as a serious option without a) serious cash or b) welfare. The X's bought into the whole hell-hole of middle/upper class over-protective "helicopter mother / kindergarten cop" issues, while the millennials [those that aren't merely breeding on the trailer park with cousins] are having major identity crisises, gender confusion and inability to parse sensible feminism. Large parts of the professional Transitionals are only just starting to have kids [29-35] and still wondering about it.

What is interesting about the transitionals is that they are also "pre" the acultural "irony" of the millennials: but they're also past the boring ~ism fetish of the X's and Boomers. I'd argue that the X's have largely fallen into the trap of "past it, resent it, gripe about the boomers" as they're too close to that problem, while the Millennials are so vapidly shallow that "hipster" and "re-inventing the wheel" are considered positive character traits. They're like small puppies, really: apart from the underlying net and real predator teeth we won't touch on here. Transitionals also have the ability to look backwards into a pre-Electronic life while appreciating the gains (and thus: have a comparison model, something the millennials lack ~ most of them were under 18 on 9/11 2001, so haven't even experienced the "old" America, pre-FEAR ON TERROR, FEAR, FEAR), and have some chance at decent economic and social capital; they're also reaching the age where (traditionally) they should be turning towards leading this crazy little place.

I should also add - the transitionals missed (largely) the entire "Cold War / M.A.D" fear zone that was used on the X's. If you're looking for something truely useful, that's a hint ~ a generation without a culturally spanning, all-encompassing fear that shaped their consciousness as they grew up.


There's more, but too much Turkey. Transitionals are about your only sane hope at this point; unless you think this is all bollocks, of course. Feel free to argue (politely; not fighting over Christmas, sorry)

thedrickster's picture

Brilliant, you absolutely nailed it.

Not at all bullocks though I wonder if "past the boring ~ism fetish of the X's and Boomers" adaquately captures what I see as a thorough distrust/distaste for centralized, hierarchical systems. The transitionals never "bought-in", they are either playing the game knowing full well that it is rigged/finite in duration OR they are permanentely relegated to mom's basement.

Any recommended reading on "Transitionals"? My sense has been that there is something quite different about my world view as compared to that of my wife "X" and siblings, etc "Mills", your post has piqued my interest.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

You mean analysis of Transitionals?

To my knowledge, doesn't really exist - most major works have skipped from Gen X > Millennials due to laziness and bad research. AKA, you just got primary data points, for free.



That's why you read ZH - original thinking (whatever the tone - there's a reason I use this as a reference to it. Neutral ground, with Papa Tyler enforcing the balance when needed ;) )

thedrickster's picture

You added the Cold War/9-11 bit after I replied and it is absolutely right on. I never really knew the cold war and as an earlish' twenty-something, knew with certainity one Tuesday evening in September that the world I grew up in was fucked/finished/over.

Oddly it was Hunter S Thompson who echoed my sentiment the following day, "The lid is on. Loose lips sink ships. Don't say anything that might give aid to The Enemy".

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

There's also another HS Thompson quote I'm sure you're familiar with, post 9/11.


Something something fuckers...

"The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now--with somebody--and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives...

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy...

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once...

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed--for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush....He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won't hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force."


GodSpeed Black Emporer of Truth, Drugs and the lizards in power [On Nixon - note: using the Atlantic to reference this is pure irony; scum-suckers who wouldn't have dared to utter a peep during the man's reign]



thedrickster's picture

Printed from (oddly enough) on 9/12/2001. Now where DID that piece of paper end up.

Perhaps the Millenialls are onto something.....Print to PDF.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

TrueCrypt USB drive.

Only the old get caught by the "kiddie porn on your computer" lie, and only the ignorant convict them.


Stay frosty, stay safe.




Be Seeing You.

Angus McHugepenis's picture

TrueCrypt... my favorite bank for all things digital.

Cleveland Steamer's picture

I am in that Millenial age group. Amazingly, your description does capture what is going on with a large section of people I know.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

Well, there goes my ego. Damned by faint praise indeed.


Glad it struck a chord, anyhow.

AynRandFan's picture

"this" is not from the National Review but a snarky peevish article from New York Magazine.

The problem with the Republican Party isn't with their principles, its with the voting public.  A majority of Americans are now believers in socialism.  So, selling self-reliance isn't going well, and it won't until the government runs out of other people's money and credit.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

Actually, look again. It is from the National Review, NY Mag is merely re-hosting it for snark. Look @ the author, and original publication. < Strikethrough >


[edit - might have dumped the wrong link on that claim. Leaving this up while I trace the original - so you might be correct]


+1 Greened - You're correct, I'll have to find the other piece I was referencing. It does exist though; the NY mag snark was supposed to be a secondary link to it. I disagree totally with your reading of the problems of the Republican party, but since you mentioned "Socialism" seriously when referencing Democrats, I'll pass.


Hint: JP Morgan EBTs are not socialism; they're a form of easy control, a la Huxley. Socialism is all about emancipation, remember? [Hint: Not Communism or Socialism but socialism, little "s". There's a major difference]

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

Ahh, now you've named and shamed me! Living up to your Avatar at least :) Large full moon last night as well.

It appears there was two miffed people running around junking every comment I made; wrong time of the year for such anger. Can't imagine why they'd be so angsty, perhaps the myth of howling at the moon is correct, eh?


I've linked this before, but I do love it. Wonder what those redactions were ~ descend replaced by "go down", or should we say "de-scens-us".

RKDS's picture

Ah, the principled Republican party, full of assholes who've been on the dole for decades and are either too stupid to realize it or too crooked to admit it...

blunderdog's picture

Hey, let's be fair.  Some of them are just drunk.

Ralph Spoilsport's picture

"Please feel free to do a GREP on my comments..."

(Golf Clap)

XtraBullish's picture

Good! One less crop of shark lawyers trained to game the system, bends laws, and keep Corizine out of the slammer. No more BMW's and silver coke spoons to worry about, gang. Harvard Law gave us the current crop of dung-spewing legalese assholes sent out to subvert the rule of law so now the system cannot stuff any more of 'em into the cesspool pipeline.

Angus McHugepenis's picture

XtraBullish: Please allow me to expand on your fine rant just a smidge.

"One less crop of DUMB lawyers"... fixed it.

Does anyone here who is in so much trouble that they truly need a lawyer really want to hire whats-her-name if she ever graduates from scum... er... law school? That would be like paying your executioner for the cost of the bullet.

Cable Guy's picture

The older generations got their news from the local newspaper and the nightly tv news.  It was so easy to control the masses!  This internet thing is really messing things up..... 

virgilcaine's picture

They chose to bailout the Banks, a Guvment work program would have been money better spent for these young people. Prepare accordingly.

Angus McHugepenis's picture

    “As it is, all of my possessions still fit in the back of my truck,” she says. “I can pack it in a couple hours, pick up the trailer and horses and move anywhere the gas tank will take me at the drop of a hat. What can the system take away from you when you have that kind of freedom?”

That's a wake up sign right there! She is starting to "get it". Look around and notice a vast increase in simple Class "C" (21' to 24' long) camper vehicles or even the big "diesel pusher" models parked in industrial areas overnight. I used to see it back in 06/07 during the mega boom in Alberta for the simple reason that if you didn't bring your "house" with you, it would be impossible to try and rent a place. Now it's going the opposite way. People are starting to realize they can live just as comfortably in a house on wheels and they don't need all the space they thought they would during their brainwashed days of "bigger is better". No property taxes or other such nonsense. Just yearly license plate fees and insurance. And if you don't like the neighborhood you just drive away.

zebrasquid's picture


In my town, at the beach in So.Cal., they've passed recent new laws banning parking of RVs overnight on industrial roads, as the increased numbers

of beater Airstream vagabonds became apparent.




Angus McHugepenis's picture

I hear ya. Bans made by politicians always work out well. /sarc

Here's an idea. Why don't all the new mobile "home owners" go park in the driveways of foreclosed homes? Hell, maybe they can go park in the same driveway of the home they used to "own" before they mailed their keys back to the bank. The cops can't do anything about it on private property, and there are vast tracts of subdivisions uncompleted that the cops don't have the time nor the resources to give a shit about. The risk of parking in industrial areas is that there are still business operating daily and you will get noticed if you stay for more than 2 days.