Have young men abandoned dead end, minimum wage jobs for their old room and hours of cheap video gaming fun? Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research does not deny the trend but believes they are the victims; not the perpetrators of this phenomenon.
Baker’s weekly blog, “Beat the Press” tells us that the non-peer reviewed theory, reported in the Washington Post does not hold up very well because it does not explain the declining labor force participation by women and also older men. Baker believes that slack demand is responsible for this spurning of work. The slackness is in young non-college educated men who have retreated to (or remain entrenched) in their parents’ home, blissfully whiling away the hours gaming according to the WaPo. Baker blames the balanced budget hawks who have imposed economic austerity on the country. He implies that that the 18-24 year old men are spurning low wage, low reward jobs if they can and are, in fact happier as a result. Keep in mind that the current Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25 / hour. This wage is probably not enough for a single young man to live independently upon; at least not like a Spartan. The Washington Post article implies that this, well call them millennials, are layabouts who can have more fun on their parent’s couch.
As I reflect upon my own struggle to find work without my degree, I realize that I did not live independently but I shared a house with peers. Even in this arrangement, I had assistance on occasion from my parents and financial student aid. The first job I had that could sustain me as a single man required me to work very long hours on a low salary and with big responsibilities. It had nothing to do with what I studied in college. I was lucky to find an industrial job (mining copper) with union scale wages and benefits. Again, I was working alongside of workers who had no college education at all. I like to hold responsible the fact that 1975, the year I graduated from college was the peak of the worst US recession since the Great Depression and entry-level college education jobs were not plentiful. It was not until nearly 10 years after I graduated that I found my first job based upon my education.
It remains to be seen if Hillary Clinton is elected and is successful in raising the Federal minimum to $15/hour will these “lazy young millennials” then answer the call to low reward jobs that do pay a living wage.