US millennials were grappling with the inequality of a K-shaped economy long before Covid-19

US millennials were grappling with the inequality of a K-shaped economy long before Covid-19

In a speech on Dec. 1, president-elect Biden spoke about the need to “address the structural inequities in our economy that this pandemic has laid bare” and referred to the “K-shaped” economic recovery, where the letter’s two diverging strokes depict two different economic outcomes facing Americans. The haves and the have-nots.

While the recovery from the pandemic may be the first time the population at large will experience a bifurcated economy, data and research show that some Millennials have been living in a K-shaped economy their entire professional lives. Some Millennials have been able to graduate from college, build their careers, purchase homes, and save for retirement. However, many are struggling due to rising tuition fees, higher costs of living, stagnant wages, and mass layoffs in industries like hospitality.

“People born after 1980 have just experienced lower rates of economic growth in their early adult years than anybody had seen in the 20th century,” says labor economist Gray Kimbrough, an adjunct professor at American University in Washington.

K-shaped employment

Millions of Millennials in the US (who are now 24 to 39 years old) graduated from high school and college into a recession. This meant difficulty finding jobs, sometimes for years, even after getting graduate degrees.

K-Shaped employment within the generation

In 2010, 10.4% of Millennial college graduates in the US were officially unemployed. That’s already a large number, but for those without higher education credentials, the situation was over three times worse. High school graduates were unemployed at a rate of 32.7% in 2010, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington based think tank.

The gap widened just as Millennials were entering the workforce.

The unemployment rate for college grads is typically lower than that of folks with only a high school diploma. From 1995 to 2005 the gap for workers 25 years and older fluctuated between 1.5 percentage points and

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