Student Voice


April 25, 2024



American Dream seems distant for current college students

December 9, 2011

UW-River Falls students relate to a new study, which shows how young adults feel about their future compared to their parents’ generation.

According to the study “The State of Young America” which was conducted by Dēmos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization and the Young Invincibles, a non-partisan, non-profit youth organization, “48 percent of young adults think their generation will be worse off than their parents.” The study also found that “69 percent still believe the American Dream is achievable with their generation.”

The study states, “About half of young Americans between the ages of 18 to 34 believe that the next generation will be better off than they are.”

“We can’t all find jobs,” said Rachel Hanson, a UWRF senior, “Everyone has their own idea of the American Dream so I’m not sure if it is achievable.”

“I don’t even know what the American Dream is anymore,” said Patrick Jones, a UWRF junior. “I think we have more opportunities than our parents did though.”

With the current state of the economy and the large cost of higher education, young adults across the country are delaying life styles that their parents may not have had to delay.

“We have more debt coming out of college and less job opportunities than our parents’ generations,” said Linnea Ramberg, a UWRF senior. “It is also more difficult to purchase a home which, simultaneously, is more likely to decrease in value over the years.”

In the study, “46 percent of young adults have delayed purchasing a home, 38 percent have delayed starting or continuing college or other training, 33 percent have delayed moving out on their own, 25 percent have delayed getting married due to the economy, and 30 percent of young adults say they are delaying starting a family.”

Currently the youth unemployment rate is above 17 percent, which is nearly twice the national average. “Young adults with a bachelor’s degree have 5 percent unemployment, versus nearly 15 percent for those with only a high school degree,” stated the study.

Today, the number of young women who have their bachelor’s degree comes to 37 percent, which is up from 21 percent in 1980. One major difference is that in 1980 the cost of a 4-year public education came to $8,400 while today it is an estimated $30,400. The student loan default rate is also about 9 percent.

In 1990 only about 33 percent of college students graduated school while in debt, while today that number has climbed to nearly 66 percent of college students leaving with debt. This is mainly due to infl ation with the cost of rent being an average of one-third of income when it used to be about one-fourth in 1980.

With the new law that states young adults can stay on their parents insurance until the age of 26, about one million young adults who didn’t have health care beforehand now do. There is still about 20 million though that are still uninsured.