Two once-in-a-lifetime crises have had devastating consequences for millennials.
Here’s a brutal statistic: One poll found 52 percent of Americans under the age of 45 have either lost their job, been put on leave, or had their hours dramatically cut as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 26 percent of people over the age of 45.
In other words, millennials are going to bear the brunt of this economic crisis, just as they did in 2008. The Great Recession upended the economy as many millennials were entering the labor force for the first time. The pandemic and the resulting economic shock have hit as many are entering their 30s and could erase any gains they’ve made.
Annie Lowrey, an economics writer at the Atlantic and the author of Give People Money: How A Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World, argued in a recent piece that millennials are essentially “a lost generation,” having entered the labor force during the Great Recession in 2008 and now facing a second “once-in-a-lifetime downturn.”
Millennials, Lowrey argues, have never really had any economic security, and this pandemic all but guarantees “that they will be the first generation in modern American history to end up poorer than their parents.”
I spoke to Lowrey about what makes the plight of millennials “unusually bad,” why this crisis is especially devastating for young workers, and if she thinks millennials have a chance to escape the financial precarity that has defined their lives so far.
A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.