A pair of new reports this week illuminate the challenges facing millennials in California.
The U.S. Census Bureau released a new report called “Young Adults Then and Now,” a study aimed at comparing the lives of young adults over time, using employment statistics, median incomes, and housing numbers, among other figures. The results are not encouraging for millennials in California.
Of California’s 38.3 million people, 25% are “millennials,” or between the ages of 18 and 34. The median income for full-time millennial workers in the state is $35,734, down from $40,030 in 1990, although higher than the national average of $33,883.
A staggering 34.5% of California millennials live with at least one parent, the data found. That’s up significantly from 24.6% a decade ago and 20.2% in 1980. Today, just 5% of millennials live alone. On top of that, 18.6% live in poverty, a shade under the national average of 19.7%.
About 7 in 10 young adults in California have never been married. In 2000, that number was 54.6%, and in 1980, it was just 44.6%.
Demographics in California and the rest of the country are also rapidly changing, the report found. Two out of three California millennials reported their ethnicity as something other than non-Hispanic white, up from 35.6% in 1980 and 46% in 1990. The percentage of foreign-born young adults, which had been growing steadily since the 1980s, actually fell from 36.4% in 2000 to 26.9% today.
Millennial employment statistics are perhaps the most jarring figures in the report; just 62.1% of young adults in California are employed. That number has dropped steadily since 1980, when 71% of young adults were employed. What’s worse is that over one in five California millennials hold bachelor’s degrees, the highest number in decades. In 1980, 16.3% of 18 to 34-year-olds held such degrees. In short, this generation of young people in California is the most-educated, least-employed generation in recent history.
According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, those employment statistics for southern California residents, or at least the median wage figures, are unlikely to improve any time soon. A series of recent reports by the Southern California Association of Governments projects that more than 70% of all job openings in Los Angeles County through 2018 will be for positions that do not require bachelor’s degrees. These jobs, including positions in retail and fast food, have median incomes well below the average for California millennials today.
John Husing, president of consulting firm Economics & Politics Inc., told the Times that the problem extends to all adults in California, not just millennials.
“You’re looking at a huge share of our adult population that is pretty much not qualified to work in jobs that can pay really well,” Husing said.
Christine Cooper, vice president of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., summed it up to the Times: “As an economic development plan, this is not a good strategy,” Cooper said, adding:
When we’re thinking about economic development and building prosperity for a region, the focus is not only on creating jobs in food services and in retail operations. … It’s focusing on industries where we can sell our products outside the region, and bring new dollars in.
Still, it’s not all gloomy; the reports predict that the healthcare, manufacturing, construction, logistics, and real estate industries will provide job opportunities for less-educated job seekers in the future.