I have a new piece, “Adulting While Poor,” in the fall issue of Dissent magazine. In it, I argue that the reason that many millennials can’t reach the traditional milestones of adulthood—such as getting a house and a full-time job—have little to do with a lack of willpower, and a lot to do with class:
To take just one example: As avidly as the media talks about how college grads nowadays are boomeranging back to mooch off mom and dad, the fact is that this trend is largely driven by those who didn’t go to college—working-class millennials. (Here I define class by income and education, with the “working class” making less than the median household and not possessing a four-year degree.) Young Americans with a bachelor’s degree are half as likely to live with their parents as those with just a high school degree. In fact, they live with a spouse or other partner at about the same rate as their counterparts did in that dissolute decade, the 1940s.
My article is part of a special print issue on housing featuring essays by a number of writers, including Thomas Sugrue, Matthew Desmond, and Rachel M. Cohen.
Also, Joe Pinsker of the Atlantic discussed my work in his recent article, “The Not-So-Great Reason Divorce Rates Are Declining“:
As the sociologist Victor Chen wrote for The Atlantic last year, those without college degrees were a few decades ago significantly likelier to be married by age 30 than were those with college degrees. Now, Chen notes, “just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree.”
Chen connects this trend to the decline of well-paying jobs for those without college degrees, which, he argues, makes it harder to form more stable relationships. Indeed, Cohen writes in his paper that marriage is “an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.” The state of it today is both a reflection of the opportunities unlocked by a college degree and a force that, by allowing couples to pool their incomes, itself widens economic gaps.