July 4, 2022

Steps & Stages

Let's Talk Technology

Unlike boomers, millennials didn’t find good jobs until their 30s. Here’s what it means for colleges and employers.

This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.

Young adults are facing lengthier and more complicated pathways to quality jobs as postsecondary education has grown more valuable in the labor market — and those pathways aren’t equal for those of different races and genders.

That’s the top takeaway from two new reports released Thursday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Most of the oldest millennials didn’t settle into good jobs until their early 30s, the reports found. In contrast, older members of the baby boomer generation mostly found good jobs by their mid-20s.

As they aged, the share of millennials with good jobs started to outpace that of boomers when they were the same age, according to the reports. But the longer transition period can still mean consequences for the younger generation, like not being able to pay off student loans, buy a house or chase new dreams.

“Even though young adults, especially if they’re on the bachelor’s pathway, can catch up to where the previous generation was, that delay has real consequences for what they’re able to do with their lives,” said Kathryn Peltier Campbell, associate director of editorial policy at the Georgetown CEW and one of the authors of the reports.

The reports identified three major barriers for young people seeking quality jobs: rising postsecondary education costs, limited access to high quality work-based learning, and inadequate counseling and career-navigation services. They said these barriers are exacerbated by discrimination.

“Young people today have more equal access to opportunity compared to previous generations, but their chances of succeeding in the American economy are far from equitable,” said one of the reports, which focused on how racial and gender bias block access to good jobs.

The Georgetown CEW has long studied the way higher education affects students’ career outcomes. Within the last eight months, it has published reports comparing earnings for college attendees versus high school graduates, highlighting colleges that offer low-income students high returns on investment, and showing how substantially additional levels of education boost lifetime earnings.

In short, the center has found that more education generally means more earnings. But a student’s occupation, field of study, college choice and program matter.

Thursday’s reports stand out because they show that layers of interconnected factors like family background and degree choice affect life outcomes. Those elements interact to limit opportunity among the current generation of young workers in ways that are different from the experiences of previous generations, Campbell said.

“There’s a feedback loop,” Campbell said. “It’s this cascading impact that the system has on what opportunities the system has for young people based on their race, class and gender.”

The reports lay out concerns about the current dynamic.

“The education gap affecting the likelihood of having a good job is calcifying socioeconomic divides between college haves and have-nots, limiting upward mobility, and feeding into class resentments,” an executive summary of the reports said.

Today’s workers take more time to secure good jobs

The reports define a good job as allowing someone to be economically self-sufficient. Nationally, that means paying at least $35,000 for workers under 45 years old and at least $45,000 for those who are older.

That can vary based on geography because of different costs of living. The median good job in the country pays $57,000 for workers aged 25 to 35.

Today’s good jobs require employees with more education and work experience than did those of the past, the reports said. This means young adults need stronger resumes to launch their careers, and it takes more time for them to secure good jobs.

The reports compare two birth cohorts: baby boomers born from 1946 to 1950, and millennials born from 1981 to 1985. Nearly 50% of the boomers in the labor force had good jobs when they were 25 years old. Less than 45% of millennials could say the same.

https://www.highereddive.com/news/unlike-boomers-millennials-didnt-find-good-jobs-until-their-30s-heres-w/624019/