In response to Lizzy Ratner’s "Generation Recession," young readers from across the country wrote to The Nation to share how the recession has impacted them. For many young people across the country, the American dream has been put on hold. Student loans and/or unemployment are barriers not only to financial security but also to hope for a better future. Below, read a selection of submissions to The Nation.
Clinging to Idealism
I graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies in 2008, with plans to change the world (of course). I was eager to put my earnest idealism toward enacting positive change within a world that I’d been taught had run completely off course. A few months later, the economy collapsed, along with my dreams of a job that wouldn’t destroy my conscience.
I’m currently living on $800 a month, working part-time in a glorified data-entry gig. I’m completely uninsured and unable to pay back any of my $20,000 in loans. Even if I could get a job at an "evil corporation" that might pay my bills, I still wouldn’t be able to force myself to take it, as clinging to my principles is the only thing I can do to stay a little sane. I think more than anything else, I’ve completely lost faith in the capitalist system as well as the government that enables it. I’ve watched many other well-intentioned peers find themselves completely unable to both put their college educations to work and live out their principles in doing meaningful things in their careers. I consider graduate school occasionally, but I’ve seen too many people with masters degrees pouring coffee to make spending another $70k seem worth it.
In college I learned to be wary of capitalism; now I’ve experienced its flaws firsthand, and remain completely unsure about where to turn from here.
Emily May, 24
Overqualified is the New Underqualified
While in graduate school, with loan checks coming into my bank account, the recession was a boon. My income didn’t suffer, and suddenly all my travel and gift-buying around the holidays was significantly cheaper. It was wonderful, and I still believed that I, with two graduate degrees and a reasonably impressive résumé, would be able to start a great job after my graduation and coast through this recession with some budgeting and careful allotments of my paychecks toward loan payments.
Five months after graduation, I’m still underemployed, with a folder of 150+ job applications on my desktop. For every job I’ve applied and interviewed for, there are literally dozens of other overqualified candidates breathing down my neck just offstage. I graduated into the worst job market in my lifetime, and even my moderately fancy education won’t save me now. No one cares that I finished a MA and a MBA in two years; no one cares that I have eight years of professional experience. There are approximately six jobs open in my market for someone in my field, and six hundred or more applicants are looking for the same positions I am.
I’m now working a part-time retail job for $9/hr, going without health insurance, and having to take an economic hardship deferment on my loans. This "economic recovery" is meaningless to me at the moment, as a decreased rate of job loss still does not mean that my rate of job-getting has changed in the least.