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What are the Job Prospects of Young Adults?
Despite the fact that there are smaller numbers of young adults and they are-on the average-better educated than past generations at the same point in life, young adults get paid less than would be expected and are more likely to be unemployed than are older workers. This situation began in the 1970s and was expected to soon correct itself, but "to the surprise of most analysts, the traditional gap between adult and youth wages and employment rose substantially in the 1980s and 1990s." This is true across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

In the U.S., the earnings of less-educated young men are 20% lower at the end of the 1990s than they were at the end of the 1970s. The boom of the 1990s raised pay and employment levels relative to adults, but did not come close to restoring the former position of youth.

How have young adults responded to this economic disadvantage? By postponing the transition to adult life. A higher percentage head for college. They continue to live with their parents longer than in the past. They put off getting married and having children to later in life. And, more of them are involved in crime as an alternative way to "get ahead."

The picture is not entirely uniform. "Inequality in earnings has risen substantially among the young" in the U.S. Today's young adults are quickly sorted into two groups-the educated, skilled and well-paid on the one hand, and the less-educated, unskilled and low-paid or unemployed on the other hand. Unfortunately, ethnicity and class do seem to function as markers for this sorting process.

Trend Analysis Report - Source: Youth Unemployment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries by David G. Blanchflower and Richard B. Freeman (2000, University of Chicago Press).