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Noah Smith

Understanding the Squeeze on Millennials

Slow growth hurts now, but so did overconsumption by boomers.
The basement? Oh, it's wonderful.

The basement? Oh, it's wonderful.

Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg

Did rich countries like the U.S. betray the millennial generation -- the people born in the 1980s through the early 2000s? Some make that claim. For example, a report in the Guardian discusses how high unemployment, sluggish income gains and student-loan debt have hit young people in Western countries hard.

While these hardships are real, most of them don’t constitute a betrayal. In general, governments don’t try to do things that raise unemployment and lower incomes. Sometimes they inadvertently make mistakes -- for example, austerity in some European economies has probably been a big unforced error -- but even then, they are simply being misguided, not malevolent. Even the student-loan debacle was probably a result of government attempts to raise incomes by encouraging kids to educate themselves.