Pew: Millennials the Best Educated, Least Prosperous Generation


US public school students today are more diverse than ever before and are better educated than their grandparents and parents, according to new research published by the Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank.

2014 was the first year that the majority of students in schools were from minority groups. The research found that public school student populations will continue to be more diverse in the coming years, says Herb Scribner, writing for Deseret News.

“While they may lag their peers in other nations, American students are outperforming one group: their grandparents,” Pew reported. “In fact, millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in history compared with older generations when they were the same age.”

The report found that 21% of men and 27% of women received a bachelor’s degree between the ages of 18 and 33, compared to 12% of men and 7% of women who were part of the Silent Generation, or people their grandparents’ age, received a degree.

Millennials’ parents lag behind their children in educational attainment as well. The reason for this is because minority groups and women have fought their way to having more educational opportunities, which is a trend which will likely to continue, reports the Pew study.

There is some bad news for millennials, though. They may be the best educated generation, but they are earning less than ever. For adults aged 18 to 34 between the years of 2009 and 2013, average earnings were $33,880 – the lowest since 1980, according to The New York Times.

Claire Landsbaum, reporting for Complex, says the problems include a slow economy, high unemployment rates, unchanging wages, and the burden of student loan debt that the majority of millennials carry. Another reason is the Baby Boomers; the increased federal spending on Social Security and Medicare and rising federal debt payments will hit millennials with a huge financial burden and will threaten their promised retirement benefits.

Millennials also have meager net worth at 43% less than Gen Xers, and no savings. If they have a small savings, they use money from it frequently because of their weaker salaries. In order to help these young people, writes Landsbaum, the nation’s economy would have to be overhauled, the cost of college would have to decrease, and government benefits would have to face serious reform.

In another opinion piece, Steven Rattner, a contributing writer for The New York Times, points out that some think of the millennials as “engaged, upbeat, and open to change.” To others, they are “narcissistic, lazy, and self-centered.” Either way, this group of young people is becoming less financially prosperous than any of its predecessors. For millennials who did not attend college, making a decent living is becoming more difficult. This could be because the number of middle-skilled jobs, such as manufacturing, are decreasing due to globalization.

All of this means millennials are waiting to purchase cars, homes, and other big ticket items. Marrying and having children have been put on hold as well, probably because of tough financial conditions.

Two solutions offered by Rattner include reducing Social Security benefits for the highest income American citizens and easing the burden of student debt for those who have already graduated. For the rising generation, Rattner believes less costly college opportunities must be provided.