Media Highlights

Millennials Reflect on the American Dream

by Leanna Ehrlich and Lizzie Burns   •  

MILLENNIAL.  What words come to mind when you hear this?  Young, tech-savvy, connected, idealistic?  Sheltered, demanding, spoiled, lazy?  Whatever you think, one thing’s true: the Great Recession is affecting this generation in different ways than other generations.  Despite variations in educational attainment, this generation is feeling the stress from this economic climate; anxieties about entering a dismal job market, the rising cost of higher education and other barriers to opportunity have become frequent topics of discussion.  Here at OpportunityNation, where we’ve embarked on a listening tour of voices across generations, we decided it was time to hear the opinions of the newest adult generation. 

Throughout the summer and fall, OpportunityNation has hosted a series of discussions with 16-30 year olds from around the country, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia.  Though different issues were raised at the meetings, there were a lot of similarities in the fears and dreams shared across the generation.  For almost everyone, for instance, the inability to find a job was incredibly worrisome.

So, what does opportunity mean to them?  When asked this open-ended question, answers ranged from “having options and the resources to pursue these options” and “social rights” to “access to a good education” and “what your surroundings offer you.”  What was worrisome, however, were the responses to the follow up questions – What helps you achieve this opportunity?  Or vice-versa, are there any barriers that prevent you from reaching your full potential?

At a meeting hosted by one of our great coalition partners for instance, YouthBuild’s Leadership Council members expressed concern about employment opportunities available for 18-25 year olds.  Feeling that companies are not often looking to hire young adults, it has been very difficult for this generation to break into the work force, especially without a college degree.

So many subjects were addressed during these meetings, with topics ranging from jobs, to education, to culture and communities, that one blog post alone cannot capture the complex mindset of millennials around issues of opportunity and economic mobility.  So stay tuned in the coming weeks and months to learn more about what we’ve been hearing from this generation, and add your comments to the discussion.  Their voices, and yours too, are very unique and important and continue to enrich the ideas that are shaping the OpportunityNation campaign!


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