Opinion

Millennials Hit Hard By Government Intrusion

Jesse Hathaway Research Fellow, Heartland Institute

For decades, the quality of life of the incoming generation of Americans has built on and improved on that of the previous generation. According to new data released by the United States Census Bureau, however, that is not the case for the current incoming generation, the Millennials. They have government to blame for their rotten economic conditions.

According to a new Census Bureau report based on its American Community Survey five-year statistics, young adults today are faring worse than those of the 1980s, who are now entering middle age.

“One in five young adults lives in poverty,” the Census Bureau release explains, “up from one in seven in 1980.”

Census data show the U.S. young-adult poverty rate remained relatively unchanged for two decades but began climbing sharply in 2009. In 1980, 14.1 percent of individuals ages 18 to 34 lived on incomes meeting the federal government’s definition of poverty. In 2009, 19.7 percent of that demographic group lived in poverty.

Meanwhile, the age group’s employment rate has fallen from a high of 70.6 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2009. And median wages for those two out of three employed Millennials have declined. Fewer young adults are able to find employment, and those who are do are earning less money for their work.

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a similarly bleak picture for young adults beginning their careers. In November, the effective unemployment rate for young adults, including the 1.91 million people who have entirely given up on job searching, was 14.7 percent.

Each and every new rule and regulation issued by Washington regulators is accompanied by seen and unseen costs that discourage business owners from hiring new workers. Thousands of new planned industry rules were released just before Thanksgiving, including rules allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate small puddles on farms or businesses’ private property.

Surveys by regional Federal Reserve Banks show businesses are responding to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by cutting workers’ hours, from full-time to part-time, in response to ACA’s impact on labor costs. Other businesses are deliberately understaffing in order to avoid triggering ACA requirements.

As President John F. Kennedy noted, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Removing the millstone the national government places around job creators’ necks would allow economic prosperity to flourish and benefit all Americans, including the current generation of young adults who are currently among the hardest-hit.

Jesse Hathaway (jhathaway@heartland.org) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.