Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nonsense from Adam Davidson in the New York Times Magazine About the Wisdom of Young Adults Living With Their Parents

Adam Davidson wrote an essay in the Magazine section of the New York Times about young adults who still live with their parents. The percentage of young people who live with Mom an and Dad has been going up--the figure is now 20 percent.  And--according to Davidson-- about 60 percent receive some financial assistance from their parents, much higher than in the past.

Davidson cites Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University, who coined the phrase "emerging adulthood." According to Arnett, the trend of young people moving back home with their parents is a "rational response to a radically different, confusing postindustrial economy."

For people who graduated from college with a high level of debt and no clear notion of their ultimate vocational goal, it makes sense to move back home with Mom and Dad until they figure things out; at least that's Arnett's reasoning. Davidson cites Arnett saying that "it's the people most actively involved in the struggle, the ones who at times seem totally lost, who are most likely to find their way."

Arnett also cites statistics showing that young people are remarkably optimistic.  According to a poll he conducted, 77 percent of young people still believe they will be better off than their parents!  Thus, in spite of a poor economy, a shortage of good jobs, and (for many) crushing student-loan debt, a lot of young people think things will eventually work out.

Personally, I think this line of reasoning is a lot of horse patootie (a phrase I borrowed from blogger Kathy Schiffer). Adam Davidson and Jeffrey Jensen Arnett can afford to be sanguine about the nation's economic malaise because they have good jobs.  Davidson is writing for the Times and Arnett is a professor and probably tenured.

But young people with college degrees who are forced to live with their parents due to poor job prospects and high levels of student-loan debt are in a scary position. They can't marry, have children, buy a home, or start their careers; in a very real sense they are merely trying to stay afloat financially--they are in survival mode.

I would have liked Davidson's article a lot more if it had displayed a spark of anger about a national economy that is eating the nation's young and about a rapacious higher-education industry that is impoverishing millions of young people with student-loan debt without giving them the skills they need to get well-paying jobs.

And I would have liked the article a lot more if Davidson had had some suggestions for reforming the nation's financial policies and the federal student loan program so that fewer people in their 20s have to live with their parents.  In short--the Davidson article is a puff piece published by a newspaper that pretends to care about people's suffering but is firmly dedicated to the economic status quo. After all, some body's got to buy those expensive watches that the Times Magazine advertises week after week.


Adam Davidson. "Hi, Mom. I'm Home!" New York Times Magazine, June 21, 2014, Magazine section, p. 22.

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