A poorer generation

A poorer generation

Younger adults in the United States (people in their 20s, 30s or 40s) are poorer today than their counterparts were three decades ago. Some of this stems from the rising amount of debt that people must take on to obtain a college degree. But the bigger change comes from the harsh economic conditions faced by young workers. While critics of President Joe Biden’s student loan debt cancellation often fail to acknowledge this dynamic, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt explains the circumstances that led today’s generation of borrowers to be poorer than those that came before them.

A study by William Gale of the Brookings Institution and three other researchers concluded, “As for the millennial generation, their median wealth in 2016 was lower than the wealth of any similarly aged cohort between 1989 and 2007.” That’s a remarkable — and grim — development, given how much G.D.P., stock prices and home values have grown over the same period. How could this be? One factor is that stocks and homes have risen so much since the 1980s that younger adults can’t buy into those markets as easily as their parents and grandparents could. Many millennials also had the bad fortune of graduating into an economy weakened by the financial crisis of 2007-9 and the Great Recession that followed. Many companies have not expanded or raised wages much, creating fewer opportunities early in people’s careers.

The diversity of younger generations, compounded by America’s history of systemic racism, has also suppressed wages and wealth. 

People of color, especially Black Americans, have historically accumulated wealth less rapidly than white Americans for a complex mix of reasons. Among those reasons is intentional discrimination from the government during past decades that kept Black families from receiving subsidized mortgages, owning homes and passing down wealth to later generations, which could then build on itself.

SNAP benefits boost is investment in children 
Last fall, the U.S. The Department of Agriculture updated benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to reflect modern diets and purchasing patterns. This change has made it easier for SNAP participants, including 615,000 Louisiana participants who live in households with children, to buy enough groceries to last through the end of the month. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Joseph Llobrera has more on how the recent changes invest in children’s health and well-being. 

Research shows more adequate SNAP benefits can reduce food insecurity. This, in turn, can have positive long-term impacts such as supporting economic mobility and reducing health care costs. Children participating in SNAP face lower risks of nutritional deficiencies and poor health, which can affect their health over their lifetimes. SNAP also can help children succeed in school. One study, for example, found that test scores among students in SNAP households are highest for those receiving benefits two to three weeks before the test. This suggests that SNAP does more to ensure an adequate diet before the end of the month, when benefits often run out, and that students learn better during the weeks when they have had access to more adequate food.

Not giving up on the CTC
Last year’s expansion of the child tax credit helped lift 3.7 million children out of poverty, but Congress failed to renew the expanded credit last December, and it was left out of the Inflation Reduction Act. Still, advocates of the credit have not given up, and it appears Senate Democrats are looking at an end-of-the-year compromise with their GOP colleagues. Vox’s Rachel M. Cohen has the latest on how a Child Credit compromise could play out: 

Virtually every Republican has said that some “connection to work” is essential for any family policy they’d vote for. To reach a bipartisan deal at the end of the year, advocates recognize they will have to entertain terms they rejected with Manchin. “It’s obviously easier to get to 50 votes than it is to get to 60 votes, and that’s what it is,” said Zach Tilly, a policy associate with the Children’s Defense Fund, which co-led a coalition that pushed for the expanded CTC. “I think the way we’re looking at this opportunity at the end of the year is basically just as one where we may still have some leverage to get something done.”

The Bond Commission vs. New Orleans
The state Bond Commission, urged on by Attorney General Jeff Landry, recently blocked financing to make much-needed upgrades to New Orleans’s ailing water infrastructure. The vote was in retaliation for city leaders saying they will refuse to enforce Louisiana’s statewide abortion ban, although no abortions are happening in the city or state. In a letter to The Times-Picayune, Deon Haywood, executive director of Women with a Vision, says the move reeks of white supremacy. 

The commission’s withholding of infrastructure funds that are critical to the health and safety of all is a clear example of the need for solidarity. While their actions are a direct assault on the bodily autonomy of birthing people, every single person in the city will face the consequences of flooded streets and unsafe drinking water. Now is the time to stand in solidarity with all the people whose rights are too easily put on the table as bargaining chips. We will get free together or we will suffer together. The old southern White supremacist system seeks to bring us all to heel. We must resist.

Number of the Day
2,900 – Number of jobs that state of Louisiana added from June to July (Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission via The Advocate)