Failure to Launch

Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation analyzes the divergent labor market trends for young and older adults since 1980. The report is a joint effort by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and The Generations Initiative.

Between 1980 and 2012, significant structural economic shifts produced a new postsecondary phase in the labor market entry of young adults, delaying their career launch. Older adults are working longer; however, they are not crowding young adults out of the labor market. In fact, today there are more job openings per young person resulting from retirements than there were in the 1990s.

The report's major findings are:

  • In 1980, young adults reached the middle of the wage distribution at age 26; today, they do not reach the same point until age 30. For young African Americans, it has increased from age 25 to 33.
  • Young adults’ labor force participation rate has returned to its 1972 level, a decline that started in the late 1980s and has accelerated since 2000.
  • Older workers aren't crowding young adults out of the labor market: there are more job openings created from retirements per young person today than there were in the 1990s
  • The 2000s were a lost decade for young adults. Between 2000 and 2012, the employment rate for young fell from 84 percent to 72 percent.
  • Opportunities have especially dwindled for young men, high school graduates, and young African Americans.

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