Young working-class men and women are trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in a world of disappearing jobs, soaring education costs and shrinking social support networks. Today, only 20 percent of men and women between 18 and 29 are married. They live at home longer, spend more years in college, change jobs more frequently and start families later.
Before reading any further, a spoiler alert: today’s New York Times carries no few than four articles about the poor prospects for young people, the skyrocketing costs of education, the uselessness of a college degree. That said:
“For more affluent young adults, this may look a lot like freedom. But for the hundred-some working-class 20- and 30-somethings I interviewed between 2008 and 2010 in Lowell and Richmond, Va., at gas stations, fast-food chains, community colleges and temp agencies, the view is very different.
“Lowell and Richmond embody many of the structural forces, like deindustrialization and declining blue-collar jobs, that frame working-class young people’s attempts to come of age in America today. The economic hardships of these men and women, both white and black, have been well documented. But often overlooked are what the sociologists Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb in 1972 called their “hidden injuries” — the difficult-to-measure social costs borne by working-class youths as they struggle to forge stable and meaningful adult lives. Continue reading “Young and downwardly mobile”