Serious Solon Senator Sasse Sasses Kids Today With Their Lazy Avocado Toast

Or something. On Sunday, Serious Solon and Republican Senator Ben Sasse wrote a Very Serious piece about the degeneration of well-off Kids Today who don’t work enough shitty jobs during the summer. If you want to waste your time reading it, go ahead, but, instead, let’s look at some data about Those Damn Kids Today (boldface mine):

Teen labor force participation has been on a long-term downward trend, and the decline is expected to continue to 2024, the latest year for which projections are available. A number of factors are contributing to this trend: an increased emphasis toward school and attending college among teens, reflected in higher enrollment; more summer school attendance; and more strenuous coursework. Parental emphasis on the rewards of education has contributed to the decline in teen labor force participation. Tuition costs have continued to rise dramatically, as has borrowing to pay for college. Taxpayers can qualify for tax credits to help defray tuition costs. Teen earnings are low and pay little toward the costs of college. In a teenager’s 24-hour day, except for sleeping, school activities take up the largest amount of time.

Stupid kids with their book learnin’! They should attend the School of Hard Knocks.!

Kidding aside (though we do like to kid!), there’s a more serious issue at play here:

While teens have seen reductions in their labor force participation rates, participation among the 55-and-over age group has been growing. The labor force participation rate for people ages 55 and over surpassed the rate for teens in 2009. By 2015, the participation rate for the older age group was 39.9 percent versus 34.3 percent for teenagers. In 2015, the number of employed people ages 55 and over was about 7 times greater than the number of employed 16-to-19-year-olds. Older people are staying in the labor force longer than ever before. In addition, even though older workers may officially “retire” from their career jobs, many do not officially exit the labor force; instead, they increasingly take on “bridge” jobs, usually part-time or part-year and lower wage jobs.

Data from the CPS show that fewer teens are employed in the occupational groups in which they are concentrated and that greater shares of older workers are employed in these groups, particularly workers ages 55 and over. The three occupational groups that employ the most teenagers are food preparation and serving, sales and related occupations, and office and administrative occupations. Employment share by age group for these occupational groups for 2005 and 2015 is shown in table 6. Although the share of food preparation employment held by teenagers fell between 2005 and 2015, it grew among those ages 20–24, 25–34, and ages 55 and over. As for sales and related occupations, older people increased their share to more than 1 in 5 workers in 2015, while the share of sales jobs held by teens dropped to 7 percent. In office and administrative support occupations, the only age group to increase in share was the 55-and-older set. In 2015, nearly one-quarter of workers in office and administrative support were ages 55 and up.

Other researchers noted that college graduates may be working in jobs that do not require a college degree, particularly after the most recent recession. Neeta P. Fogg and Paul E. Harrington at the Center for Labor Markets and Policy, Drexel University, noted, “That is, young college graduates increasingly will choose to work in occupations that do not use much of the knowledge, skills, and abilities usually developed by earning a college degree rather than accept the alternative of joblessness.” In a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Jaison R. Abel, Richard Deitz, and Yaqin Su estimated that about 20 percent of young, recent college graduates were employed in low-wage jobs in 2009, such as cashiers or food servers, compared with 15 percent in 1990.

Basically, older people can’t afford to retire, and younger college graduates can’t find good work. Maybe Serious Senator Sasse might get on that. Then again, he’s a Republican, so blaming this sorry state of affairs on values, as opposed to doing something about it, is par for the course.

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