Michigan millennials and economic decline

Interesting interactive Atlantic article on the economic well being of today’s 18-35 year olds compared to those the same age in 1980. The bottom line: Michigan’s median income for those 18-35 has fallen the most in the country from 1980-2013, down more that 26 percent.

The Atlantic writes:

The past is another country. In 1980, the typical young worker in Detroit or Flint, Michigan, earned more than his counterpart in San Francisco or San Jose. The states with the highest median income were Michigan, Wyoming, and Alaska. Nearly 80 percent of the Boomer generation, which at the time was between 18 and 35, was white, compared to 57 percent today.

Three decades later, in 2013, the picture of young people—yes, Millennials—is a violently shaken kaleidoscope, and not all the pieces are falling into a better place. Michigan’s median income for under-35 workers has fallen by 26 percent, more than any state. In fact, beyond the east coast, earnings for young workers fell in every state but Hawaii and South Dakota.

… The deeper explanation might be structural. Many young adults, particularly those who represent their families’ first college graduates, are earning more than their parents. But young adults without a college degree have been run roughshod by technological changes, globalization, and slow wage growth that continues to this very week. Many of the cities with the largest declines in median income (Flint, Detroit, Cleveland, Youngstown, Toledo) were industrial hubs undone by the demise of manufacturing employment. … Although these figures paint a lugubrious picture of young workers today, it’s nonetheless true that Boston, San Jose, Washington, San Francisco, and New York’s metro areas have all seen double-digit real income growth since 1980. (Emphasis added.)

The varying fortunes of college educated Millennials from those without a four year degree is detailed in the terrific report from the Pew Research Center we have written about previously. Entitled the “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College” the report found:

On the one hand, it is clear that young, college-educated workers are having more difficulty landing work compared with earlier cohorts of young adults. They are more likely to be unemployed, and it takes them longer, on average, to find a job. On the other hand, once they’re employed, their earnings are higher than those received by earlier cohorts of young, college-educated adults. For less-educated young workers, there is no upside: They are more likely to be unemployed and they are spending more time searching for a job compared with less-educated young workers who came before them. And their earnings are significantly below those received by less-educated young workers in earlier generations (with the exception of high school-educated Gen Xers).

Michigan’s 18-35 year olds were doing the best in 1980 because they were participating in the old economy, of which Michigan was at the epicenter, of high paid factory jobs. An economy that paid those without a college education well. Michigan’s 18-35 year olds of today have fallen farther than those in any other state because that economy is gone. Employment growth and high wages are increasingly concentrating in  knowledge-based industries. And the winners of all generations are those with a four-year degree or more.




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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. In the Pew Research Report, there was one table which analysed regrets millennials had about things they could have done better in college to prepare for a career. The number one regret listed was that they felt they should have worked more when they were s college student. I have been working with college students for several years in my second career as a college instructor and tutor. I agree with them that getting work experience while in college is very important. It even has the added benefit of potentially reducing the amount of student debt they have at graduation. I think working while in college is so beneficial that they should do it even if it means taking 1 or 2 years longer to graduate. On the other hand I do not think they need to take more than an extra 2 years or it may look bad to a potential employer. The exception to this is someone who starts school a little later in life when they are already raising a family. Then they probably have to work almost full time, and it may take longer to graduate. A student who does want to work in college will probably have to take about any job he or she can get during the first 2 years. In years 3 and 4 he should try to find something related to their field of study. It could even be a kind of internship. I teach accounting, so I have had several students who worked lots of hours in the winter semester doing tax returns. Some of them end up getting full-time jobs with the company they work for as an intern. Others at least gain experience that other employers like. I have had some students where an employer asks them to take a semester or a year off from school to work at the company, and then they continue part while they return ti school.
    So you can probably tell that I agree with the Pew article that work experience is a big plus.

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