America’s Dust Bowl era yielded numerous hard luck stories of Americans packing up and traveling great distances in search of work – it’s the stuff of Woody Guthrie and Steinbeck’s Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times posits that that the current younger and underemployed generation might not have the same chutzpah as their forebears from the Great Depression. Research from the Pew Research Center found that the number of young adults living at home doubled between 1980 and 2008, and another study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute discovered that the more time young people spent on the Internet the more likely they were to delay getting their driver’s licenses.
Paola Giuliano of UCLA's Anderson School of Management co-authored the 2009 student, "Growing Up In a Recession," which took a look at the professional and personal paths of young people coming of age during a bad time in the economy.
"We have data from the 1970s to today, and the result is that people who grew up during bad times tend to be less entrepreneurial, and tend to believe that luck is more important than effort," she told Patt Morrison. "These people become more pessimistic as to what's going on in their lives, so they decide not to move or not to take a driver's license."
Jobs abound in states like North Dakota, where the unemployment rate is a bustling 3.3 percent, but out-of-work youths in states with higher unemployment rates are less willing to pack up and move to where the jobs are.
"I think this whole going nowhere generation thing is a crock and it overlooks a vast array of changes that have happened in the last 30 years that have selectively affected young people," said sociologist Michael Males. "The last two recessions we've had in this country … have affected only young people. Older generations have had increasing wealth and incomes during that period. The reason is not because the older generations are harder-working, or just better or bolder, but because we've selectively rigged the economic system to reward aging generations disproportionately while punishing younger people."
Why is Generation Y so risk-averse when it comes to moving for a job?
Michael Males, sociologist and senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a San Francisco advocacy group