Generation Cupcake = “Generation Broke”

broke college will talk for food

From the Boston Globe-Democrat:

Millennials now represent “the highest percentage of Americans lacking enough money to meet their basic needs,” outdistancing Gen X-ers and baby boomers in that dubious regard, according to the survey.

Burdened by $1 trillion in college debt….and with thousands more collecting their college diplomas this spring, ever more of them are sailing into young adulthood, ready or not.

Facing them is “a perfect storm of a weak job market and the fact that those who do have jobs have seen minimal pay increases,” says WSL president Candace Corlett. Unlike previous generations, she adds, young adults are starting out their professional lives by piecing together part-time and temp jobs, or freelancing for low pay. Full-time jobs with benefits? Not many.

Meanwhile, buried under a mountain of college debt, they watch the cost of housing, food, and other basics rise, squeezing them at both ends.

Why is Generation Cupcake in this mess?  We can blame them—and as young adults, they have some culpability—but c’mon, this is mostly about their parents. Parents who insisted that their precious snowflakes go to college, not because it made sense or because their kids were academically-motivated, but because the parents wanted it. 

Then there’s the high school/college/government industrial complex, with high school officials all but ordering kids to go to college (it boosts high school rankings, among other things). The result of all these old people doing what’s in their immediate self-interest is….this:

Sixty percent [of millennials] said they do not earn enough to make ends meet. Thirty-six percent said they rely on their families for financial support. And, compared with 25 years ago, households headed by under-35s have 68 percent less wealth than their parents’ generation had, Pew’s research also showed. Downward mobility is the new norm, or so it seems.

Take, for example, the case of Cailee:

Like many, Cailee Mellen keeps a close eye on her cash flow. Mellen, 22, graduated from Boston University last year with a degree in archeology and art history. She lives in an Allston apartment she shares with a roommate and has a full-time job with the Boston Children’s Museum, working in visitors’ service. While not in dire financial straits, Mellen spends roughly half her income on rent and utilities; another $200 monthly goes to pay off college loans, a debt she splits with her parents.


Could Cailee be the 1 in 100 archeology/art history majors who makes a career in her field?  Maybe—but chances are the phrase “Would you like to hear tonight’s specials?” will be in her employment future.

What did her parents say about her degree choice?  Why was she in college in the first place? Will her economic life be significantly better 10 years from now than if would have been if she had started working in the “visitor’s service” department of a children’s museum four years ago—without a degree?

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has written the book—literally—on the Higher Ed bubble. That bubble only exists because grown-ups who should know better pushed their kids into an expensive and, in may cases, irrelevant college career.


Michael Graham
Radio talk show host, columnist for the Boston Herald, stand-up comic and former GOP political consultant. Learn more about Michael here.

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