Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation
Failure to Launch:
Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation
By: Anthony P. Carnevale, Andrew R. Hanson, Artem Gulish
September 30, 2013
• There has been a structural shift whereby the traditional
path from school to work and then onto retirement no
longer applies for a growing amount of Americans.
• Young adults are launching their careers later and are
going through additional phases in the lifecycle of work
A Lost Decade
• As a result of this shift, the first decade of the 21st
century was a lost decade for young adults.
• The employment rate for young adults (ages 21-25)
declined from 84 percent to 72 percent between 2000
Young adults’ participation in the labor force has declined
since the 1990s; it is now at its lowest point since 1972
The structural shift has aﬀected certain groups more
than others, particularly three main groups
• Young Adults, specifically men
• Young African Americans
• High School Graduates
In 1980, young men made 85 percent of the median wage;
in 2012, they earned only 55 percent of the median wage
The share of men in their late 20s who work full-time
declined from 80 percent to 65 percent between 2000
The peak unemployment rate for young African-Americans
was more than twice as high as the peak unemployment rate
While young adults at all education levels suﬀered, B.A.
degree holders endured the shocks of the last decade
• High school graduates’ full-time employment rate declined 13 percentage
points between 2000 and 2012, compared to 8 points for BA holders.
Older workers are delaying retirement plans
• Between 1983 and 2012, the employment rate of 55- to 64-
year-olds increased from 52 percent to 61 percent.
By 2021, there will be 14,235,000 job openings for
young adults created by retirements
• Contrary to popular belief, older adults aren’t crowding younger
workers out of the labor market.
• There are more job openings
created by retirements per young
person today than there were in
the 1990s when young people
had high rates of employment.
Entitlements for seniors, however, are putting increased
pressure on investments in education and training
The on-ramps and oﬀ-ramps into and out of the labor
market need to be smoother and more eﬃcient
• Young adults will need to mix work and
learning at earlier stages to accelerate
their launch into full-time careers.
• Older adults need a less abrupt transition
out of careers and into retirement that
features a more flexible phase of work
before full-fledged retirement.
For more information:
See the full report at: cew.georgetown.edu/FailureToLaunch/
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