Nav: Home

Millennials are 'canaries in the coalmine' for toxic economic trends

June 10, 2019

Millennials - young adults in their 20s and 30s - earn less money without a college degree and are more likely to die prematurely from suicide or drug overdose than previous generations, according to a new report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The report also found that millennials also have a wider set of identities from which they can choose: Unlike older generations, millennials are frequently embracing multiracial and unconventional gender identities. However, this doesn't mean they are any more accepting of people different from them compared with previous generations. The report found that millennials believe common racial and gender stereotypes to be true just as much as people from the Baby Boomer cohort, who were born from 1946 to 1964, and Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980.

The report, issued on June 6, brought together some of the country's leading experts on poverty and inequality and offers a comprehensive assessment of data on education, health, employment and income, occupational segregation, debt and poverty rates, economic mobility, racial and gender identities, social connections, housing and incarceration trends.

"Millennials are the first generation to experience in a full-throttled way the social and economic problems of our time," said David Grusky, professor of sociology and director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

As millennials tried to enter the job market during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, they also had to deal with decades-long economic issues, such as rising inequality and declining economic mobility. This made it an especially difficult period, he said.

"We can think of them as canaries in the coalmine who reveal just how toxic those problems are. By assembling a report that provides a comprehensive understanding of their situation, we can go beyond the usual patchwork policy and begin to address underlying problems," Grusky said.

Millennial education

Contrary to some popular assumptions, when college-educated millennials entered the labor market, they earned just as much as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers when they were their age.

But millennials with only a high school diploma or less are earning much less than their counterparts from previous generations, according to the report's analyses of education, written by Stanford sociologist Florencia Torche and doctoral sociology student Amy Johnson.

For example, the median earnings for 25-year-old millennial men with a bachelor's or higher degree were about $50,000 per year, which is slightly higher than for previous generations after adjusting for inflation. The median earnings for 25-year-old millennial men who have high school degrees or less were $29,000 per year, which is about $2,600 dollars less than Gen Xers and nearly $10,000 less than Baby Boomers received at the same age, according to Torche and Johnson's analysis of U.S. Census data from 1975 to 2018.

"It's not that going to college amounts to striking gold for most people," Grusky said. "The big news is that if you don't go to college you're likely to do worse than ever. What makes college attractive is mainly that it offers some protection from that fate."

Millennial health

Mortality rates among young adults have also increased substantially, according to the report's analyses of health, written by Stanford economist Mark Duggan and economics undergraduate Jackie Li.

Between 2008 and 2016, mortality rates among those between 25 and 34 years old increased by more than 20 percent. These deaths were mainly driven by a rise in suicides and drug overdoses, Duggan and Li found. The mortality rate among non-Hispanic whites, aged 20 through 34, saw the highest jump - 27 percent - in comparison to a 9 percent increase for blacks and a 6 percent increase for the Hispanic population, according to their analyses of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These findings are in juxtaposition with the fact that more millennials were covered by health insurance. Duggan and Li found that because of the Affordable Care Act, the share of adults in their 20s without health insurance fell by more than half from 2009 to 2017.

Duggan and Li also showed that the racial gap in health insurance coverage has grown smaller through the expansion of health insurance under the ACA.

Millennial identities

The report shows that millennials were more likely to identify as multiracial and to adopt unconventional gender identities.

But millennials embrace racial and gender stereotypes in a similar way to previous generations. According to the report, one-fifth of millennials still adopt traditional views of gender roles, nearly the same as the rates among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, according to analysis of data from the General Social Survey between 1994 and 2016 and previous research from Stanford scholars.

Millennials are also equally likely as Gen Xers to believe that blacks are lazier than whites, according to analyses by sociologist Aliya Saperstein and sociology doctoral student Sasha Shen Johfre.

"When it comes to their identities, millennials are a truly innovative generation that is forging new options," Grusky said. "But when it comes to their attitudes about race and gender, they're just not as special."

Compassion for young adults

Among other findings, the report shows that the racial gap in homeownership among young adults was larger for millennials than for any generation in the past century.

In 2010, young white adults between 20 and 29 years old were 2.7 times more likely to own a home than their black counterparts, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data from 1940 to 2017. Even if you reach back to the Silent Generation, which includes those born between 1928 and 1945, the racial gap in homeownership among those young adults was smaller than it is now.

According to Grusky, these and other results make it clear that millennials are facing big challenges, many of which stem from the "endemic racial, gender and economic problems" of our time. He hopes that the report can inform future policies.

"If you understand the economic and social context within which millennials are growing up," Grusky says, "it's natural to feel real empathy and hard, by contrast, to understand the anger that's often directed toward them."
-end-
Stanford scholars contributing to the report are David Grusky, professor of sociology in the School of Humanities and Sciences; Florence Torche, professor of sociology; Mark Duggan, professor of economics and director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; Aliya Saperstein, associate professor of sociology; Sasha Shen Johfre, doctoral sociology student; Amy Johnson, doctoral sociology student; and Jackie Li, economics undergraduate student and a research assistant at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Stanford University

Related Health Insurance Articles:

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.
How common for cancer survivors to stay at jobs for health insurance?
This survey study looked at how often cancer survivors in the United States and their spouses or partners stay in their jobs because of concerns about losing their health insurance.
New health insurance insights
MIT economists analyze how patients and health care providers value Medicaid.
New health insurance benefit at U-M led to increased rates of IVF
In a new research letter appearing in JAMA detailing a first-of-its-kind study, a University of Michigan team compared the use of IVF among university employees before and after the addition of an insurance coverage benefit, finding a marked increase in the rate of use.
Financial hardship in cancer: The role of health insurance literacy
A new American Cancer Society study links health insurance literacy with medical financial hardship as well as non-medical financial sacrifices among adult cancer survivors in the United States.
Health insurance rule could help millions spend less for the care they need
Millions of Americans with chronic conditions could save money on the drugs and medical services they need the most, if their health insurance plans decide to take advantage of a new federal rule issued today.
Health insurance idea born at U-M could help millions of Americans spend less
New federal rule could reduce out-of-pocket costs for key drugs and services for people with chronic conditions in high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts.
Health insurance is not assurance of healthcare
Because of high out-of-pocket expenses, Ohioans who purchase subsidized health-exchange insurance often can't afford the care they need when they need it.
Study details poverty, lack of health insurance among female health care workers
A study carried out by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania finds that low wages and poor benefits leave many female health care workers living below the poverty line.
Is TV advertising for health insurance worth the expense? A new study says, 'maybe not'
A new study to be published in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science has revealed that health insurance has a small effect on brand enrollments, raising the question of whether health insurance television advertising is worth the expense.
More Health Insurance News and Health Insurance Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Biology Of Sex
Original broadcast date: May 8, 2020. Many of us were taught biological sex is a question of female or male, XX or XY ... but it's far more complicated. This hour, TED speakers explore what determines our sex. Guests on the show include artist Emily Quinn, journalist Molly Webster, neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, and structural biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Wubi Effect
When we think of China today, we think of a technological superpower. From Huweai and 5G to TikTok and viral social media, China is stride for stride with the United States in the world of computing. However, China's technological renaissance almost didn't happen. And for one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn't fit on a keyboard.  Today, we tell the story of Professor Wang Yongmin, a hard headed computer programmer who solved this puzzle and laid the foundation for the China we know today. This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with reporting assistance from Yang Yang. Special thanks to Martin Howard. You can view his renowned collection of typewriters at: antiquetypewriters.com Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.