The Edmond Sun

Opinion

October 8, 2012

High stakes in election for young voters

Los Angeles — In 2008, young Americans voted in their largest numbers in a presidential election since the Vietnam War. Recently, however, there has been considerable speculation about whether they will show up at the polls in November. When you look at how badly they’re faring in today’s economy, they could scarcely choose a worse time to stay home.

On Wednesday, President Obama and Mitt Romney swapped barbs over unemployment during their first presidential debate. For young people, the truth is even uglier than either would want to admit.

Americans who enter the workforce during a recession always face an uphill battle, but this generation is worse off than most. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for 25- to 54-year-olds — the bulk of the workforce — the unemployment rate is 7.1 percent. But for 18- to 24-year-olds, the rate is more than twice that, at 15.7 percent.

Even after these young Americans find work, they will remain at a disadvantage for decades. A study published in January on Canadian college graduates by economists Philip Oreopoulos, Till von Wachter and Andrew Heisz shows that in economies like ours, during normal times the average person sees 70 percent of his or her career wage growth in the first 10 years on the job.

Further, they found that those lucky enough to get a job but unlucky enough to graduate during a recession will take a 9 percent hit on pay right off the bat. It usually takes as long as a decade to climb out of that hole.

And with average hourly wage growth at an all-time low over the last year, hard times are taking a toll on all those who manage to find work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage growth for non-supervisors in August was just 1.3 percent, below the current rate of inflation. That number typically stands at more than 3 percent a year, and in good economic times, as high as 4 percent.

These numbers could mean real problems for all Americans, but particularly for the next generation. Maybe tomorrow’s young married couples will decide they don’t have enough money to have a child, or to raise a second or third one. Maybe day-care costs them so much, they decide it makes more sense for a spouse to stay home and care for the kids than to work. One-income families would have lower incomes, longer commutes and lower standards of living.

It’s not just lost income at stake but also lost wealth. For families in which the head of household is younger than 35, the Federal Reserve finds that household net worth has been whipsawed, falling by an average of $45,000 — or about 41 percent — since 2007.

By now, most Americans know times are hard. They may have lost their jobs or seen friends or family members lose theirs. But they might not recognize that our unemployment figures dramatically understate the severity of the situation. Many Americans are underemployed, or are unemployed and no longer actively looking for jobs, and the jobs reports don’t show them.

A better measure of employment is the employment ratio — the share of the working-age population that has a job. That figure bottomed out in late 2009, when only 58.2 percent of working-age Americans had jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, three years into the recovery, that number has barely budged: 58.3 percent.

Here too things look much worse for the young. For 25- to 54-year-olds, workforce participation has fallen by 1.6 percent since the start of the recession in 2007. But for 18- to 24-year-olds, participation has fallen by 5.4 percent.

Since the recession began, only one demographic group has seen an increase in its employment rates: Americans 55 and older. Many baby boomers watched their retirement savings tank in their last years before retirement and are working longer or have gone back to work to make up the difference.

In some workplaces, this is probably great news: more senior employees with more institutional knowledge and more experience can mean more productivity. But it does no favors for workers with less experience, whom the boomers outrank and displace from the job force.

Americans between 25 and 54 years old are much more likely to vote in presidential elections than younger adults. But though they’ll probably decide who occupies the Oval Office in January and who sits in Congress, it’s the young who have much more at stake.

KEITH HALL, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, was chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisors from 2005-08 and commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 until this year. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times. It was distributed by MCT Information Services.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results