Has Generation Y Lost its Entrepreneurial Spirit?

December 06, 2012

Many young people are unwilling to pull up their roots and move far away for a job that might offer a better salary, but not much security.

An article in the New York Times earlier this year coined the phrase “the Nowhere Generation” for today’s twenty-something’s. The number of them moving to another state has fallen by over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data. Many prefer to stick in lower-paid jobs close to where they were brought up rather than head off across the country in search of more lucrative positions that might never materialize. The recession played a major role in this trend. With youth unemployment stuck at around 17% and college graduates saddled with huge student loans, there are fewer jobs available in general. So it makes sense that many young people are unwilling to pull up their roots and move far away for a job that might offer a better salary, but not much security.

Making matters worse, cities such as San Francisco and New York are getting too expensive to afford, while places that grew quickly back in the early 2000s, like Phoenix and Las Vegas, are still slowly creeping out of the recession. The migration was a slowing trend even before the economic crisis killed it stone dead. The Times story quoted figures from the Pew Research Center, stating that the proportion of young adults living at home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, before the recession began. So what else is going on here? Many commentators argue today’s young people simply don’t have the energy to hit the highway in search of a good job. Generation Y is now Generation “Why Bother?” But Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research professor in psychology at Clark University has challenged this popular view. According to his analysis of a regular poll he conducts on “emerging adults”, 75% want to be independent, but they are forced to depend on their Mom and Dad for handouts. It’s also complicated by the fact that the tough jobs situation hasn’t dimmed this generation’s idealism. Some 85 percent of respondents said they would prefer a job that made a difference. "It's not just about having money and forgetting about everybody else," Arnett told the Huffington Post. That’s backed up by a comment in the New York Times piece by the director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, who says young people want to stay close to their friends and family and are willing to pass up good jobs elsewhere so they can remain in their hometowns. The answer surely is to try to turn this generation on to entrepreneurialism. You don’t want to move away, but there aren’t any jobs at home? OK, make your own job. You want your independence? Then do something to make yourself financially self-reliant. The Fix Young America campaign wants to combat youth unemployment and underemployment by encouraging people to start their own companies. It wants state and federal government to do more to help young entrepreneurs, including deferring or writing off some or all of their student loans and helping them get access to funding. How can we turn today’s Generation “Why Bother” into Generation “Why Don’t We Do It Ourselves”. Let us know your thoughts below.