Young people after four years of President Obama

Reuters

American University student Ramona Daukste (L) shakes hands with recruiter Josie Nava-Martinez during a career job fair at American University in Washington March 28, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • Unfortunately, job prospects for a college senior today aren't much different than they were four years ago

    Tweet This

  • Unless politicians create the conditions for a vibrant economy, opportunity will continue to shrink for young adults.

    Tweet This

  • Only 49% of Americans think that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents. @KarinAgness

    Tweet This

On Monday, young people across the country will watch, cheer and tweet as they celebrate the inauguration of the man they helped reelect president of the United States. The enthusiasm will be reminiscent of the excitement four years ago when President Obama was sworn in as the 44th president.

Only this time, we know what young people get after four years of Obama's policies. He no longer has the luxury of being judged just on the promise of hope and change. After four years of Obama, young people now face high unemployment and underemployment, increased health care costs and most recently, less take home pay compared to last year due to higher payroll taxes.

Obama's policies have weakened our economy, and the opportunities for graduating seniors are not getting better. Ask today's college senior who voted for Obama in 2008 how strong their job prospects are, and their answer will be virtually unchanged to a college senior's answer four years ago-not strong at all.

College seniors faced a tough job market in January 2009 as unemployment for adults ages 20-24 was 12.4 percent and rose to 15 percent by the May 2009 graduation season.

The high school seniors who watched Obama's inauguration four years ago are now college seniors who will enter an economy that remains sluggish. For today's adults ages 20-24, the unemployment rate stands at 13.7 percent.

This doesn't give much hope to the young voter who assumed that four years of Obama would make their job prospects better.

Some young people are starting to realize they assumed too much. Today's college senior likely voted for Obama in 2008, but the president's margin of support over his Republican challengers among 18-29 year olds dropped 11 points from 2008 levels, based on the 2012 presidential exit poll. What caused this shift in enthusiasm? Perhaps it's the growing sentiment that opportunity is shrinking for today's young adults.

Throughout our nation's history, each generation of Americans has boasted a better standard of living than the proceeding generation. That is a source of pride. About a month before the 2009 inauguration, Gallup asked the following question: "How likely do you think it is that today's youth will have a better life than their parents - very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?"

At that time, 56 percent of Americans believed it very or somewhat likely that America's youth would have a better life than their parents.

Under Obama, this number hit an all-time low of 44 percent in April 2011-the lowest level of optimism in decades. Last month, the number rose to 49 percent, which is still lower than when Obama took office.

Why the pessimism about the future of the next generation? The high unemployment rate and a sluggish economy translate into difficult personal realities for many of those high school seniors who supported Obama in 2008. Those students are now looking forward to another graduation-but after this graduation, many will move from their college dorms back to their high school homes, sending out resume after resume with no success.

While we should watch each new class of graduates walk across the stage, diploma in hand, moving into a new phase of life with a sense of boundless opportunities ahead, instead opportunities seem quite limited for today's college graduates.

Unless our elected officials fix our fiscal issues and create the conditions for a vibrant economy, I'm afraid today's high school seniors will face a similar future on the next inauguration day.

Karin Agness is the director of academic programs at the American Enterprise Institute. 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Karin
Agness
  • Karin Agness was the director of academic programs at AEI. Prior to joining AEI, she practiced law at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, D.C. In 2011, she was selected for the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Law and Policy.

What's new on AEI

Expanding opportunity in America
image Moving beyond fear: Addressing the threat of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria
image Foreign policy is not a 'CSI' episode
image The Air Force’s vital role
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.