Recession gives rise to Generation R

Job seekers line up to attend a job fair at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City.


Jeremy Hobson: Later this morning we'll get another indicator on the nation's job picture when the labor department tells us how many new people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That and yesterday's good news on private sector jobs are all part of the lead up to tomorrow's government report on December hiring.

Well imagine you're taking in all of this news about the slow climb out of recession just as you're getting out of college and into the working world. This mediocre job market is all you know. If you're one of those people St. Josephs University Sociology Professor Maria Kefalas would call you "Generation R." The Recession Generation.

Kefalas has been studying Gen R and she joins us now from Philadelphia to talk about her study. Good morning.

Maria Kefalas: Good morning.

Hobson: Tell us who you've been following to get a sense of what you're calling "Generation R."

Kefalas: They were born between 1980 and 1990. They're the children of the baby boomers. Young people from one of the most affluent communities here in Pennsylvania. The second community is right at the median household income, and then the third neighborhood is the working-class neighborhood.

Hobson: Education in this country has often been touted as a ticket out of the social class you're born into. After having gone through college, do you htink these kids feel some kind of faith still in the education system in the country?

Kefalas: Working class kids said to us, "Listen, we're going to be the first generation of Americans to do worse than our parents." One young woman said, "I just feel burned. My friends who didn't go to college, they don't have debt and they're making more an hour than I am."

Hobson: She actually wanted to have not gone to college?

Kefalas: She actually said, "I don't even know why I spent the money." The middle class kids were saying, "It's very tough, I am filled with anxiety. I can't sleep at night, but I still believe in a college degree. I'm just oging to have to work harder and it's going to take longer." And those ellite kids said, "Is there really a recession? It's more like -- it's just harder for me to get a job." And they're sitting out this recession in a lot of ways.

Hobson: Generation R knows what it's like to be in terrible economic times, but they probably also remember the great times of the '90s or at least the early and mid-2000s, economically. What do they think of the difference?

Kefalas: I think they look at the pop culture icons like Paris Hilton and they're sort of cringing in embarrassment.

Hobson: Right.

Kefalas: They now talk a great deal about not wasting money; conspicuous consumption they say has gone out of fashion. And they don't want to be seen as throwing money around when their families are eating into their resources to keep them afloat, etc.

Hobson: Well, Maria Kefalas, a professor of sociology at St. Joseph's University and one of the lead researchers working on the Generation R project. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

Kefalas: Thanks Jeremy.

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I am a part of Generation R. I try and make a living on site like Odesk.com and JobsFor10.com.
Unfortunately all pf my income are from abroad and believe me, it's mot something I could buy an apartment for my family.

Mr. Critch et al: You might like to read SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT by Matthew Crawford and REAL EDUCATION by Charles Murray. Both books are quite relevant to this issue.

I feel lucky to have left graduate school before my debt rose to a mortgage payment size. I have many friends close to me that have professional and masters degrees that regret above bachelor degree education because of never-ending debt. Debt is a crippling problem of the educated generation R-- through stress, anxiety, inability to forsee buying homes, getting married, or having children.

I am a part of Generation R. I wish I hadn't gone to college. I will never be out of debt now.

Spot on Lawrence.
Whatever happened to apprenticeships in technical trades sans a college degree?

Starting with the post-WWII GI Bill of Rights, our country has become obsessed by one's having a college degree. My research reflects that "baby-boomers" have been conditioned to think accordingly and have inadvertently created a caste society based on whether one has a degree or not. Consequently, we have lost sight of the true value of learning as a life-long process and, more tragically, the worth of the individual versus that of "a degree". Maybe "Generation R" will right our collective moral compasses. If so, this “Great Recession” will have served our nation well after all.

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