Evan Soltas
Aug 5, 2012

19, and My Generation

I turn 19 today. Given that such occasions will inevitably draw attention to my relative youth as a commentator, I'd like to point out what my readers' generation -- on rough average -- is doing to my generation.

You might say it's how the "My Generation" generation has burdened my generation. If that wasn't totally confusing.

The standard measure of the unemployment rate for 18 to 19 year-olds is 22.2 percent. It remains higher than at any time since the Great Depression, even after a slow decline since 2010. For men 18 to 19 years old -- the measure one should be using given the changes in labor force attachment for women since 1940 -- the unemployment rate stands at 24.5 percent, also higher than at any time since the Depression.

I fear these measures severely understate the level of involuntary unemployment, to say nothing about underemployment. In a post I wrote which got a lot of attention back in May, I estimated that 5.8 million Americans who should have joined the labor force have not. Of those 5.8 million, 1.3 million were between the ages of 16 to 19 inclusive. If one assumes that these 1.3 million are evenly split into fourths among the years -- which I find reasonable, although one could argue it should be slightly higher or lower -- that's an extra 700,000 who are 18 or 19 years old and should be considered unemployed.

Since there are 860,000 18- and 19-year-olds currently counted as unemployed, a more accurate measure of unemployment rate is nearly double the official metric. This "labor force adjusted unemployment rate" stands at approximately 40 percent.

40 percent. Think about the long-run consequences on human capital accumulation. And that only begins the conversation, considering the public debt and fiscal deficit and the trillions in unmet and un-meet-able future liabilities in Social Security and Medicare.

Sorry to be depressing. Yichuan Wang has a whole lot more on the troubled future of "our generation."

This post has been updated after publication to include a graph of the unemployment rate according to its standard measure and after labor force adjustment.