Great Article: Let’s Talk About Millennial Poverty

View story at Medium.com

I’m not in as dire straits as some, including the author of this excellent article. It bears mentioning that I’m not immune to the phenomena she describes, though.

Yesterday I had a long discussion about graduate school and teaching with a coworker, who is leaving this week. We talked about her belief, as mine once was, that she should be able to get into a programme at a top-tier school and get the necessary support from a research assistantship or teaching assistantship. She wants to do a stand-alone MA. It’s not very likely that those positions would be available, and with the rise of adjunct ‘professorships’ it’s possible that they wouldn’t be available even if she did want to go the full PhD nine yards.

She wants to go into International Education and study abroad administration, the other other career I had in my early 20s. I told her that there’s no way that she should be paying for an MA if she is working in that situation, since many universities offer credit programmes and part-time master’s classes as part of employment.She was confused when I said that I hadn’t personally had the opportunity, but I wasn’t going to go into all the complications of moving abroad and coming back and everything. Not to mention that most jobs I’ve ever had in the US were purposefully pinned to 39.75 hours per week to deny me that benefits of full-time employment.

It should be a familiar refrain for many Millennials.

Work hard. Study hard. Do loads of extracurriculars.

Pray that you never get sick or have an accident. Work harder. Apply. Apply. Apply. Put in 80+ applications for menial jobs in London and get an answer for two of them.

Go to interviews where they don’t tell you it’s unpaid until you’re already there. Work in a bar and have your professors come in for table service.

Live at your parents’ house. Live at your partner’s parents’ house (To be fair to the article above, I’ve had the privilege to be able to move in with family when it was necessary). Be ecstatic with $10-$12 per hour.

Pay more than $1000 per month for a room in a house with a toilet shared between six-eight people. Look at your bank statements at the end of each month and wonder if you can make it to payday. Overdraw the only time in your entire life, and get hit with a £50 overdraw fee from the bank.

Take the tax hit instead of buying the insurance you can’t afford but you must buy under a law that was meant to help you, not hurt you. Pay $800 out of pocket for an outbreak of Shingles and garner disbelief when you say to the receptionists again and again, “Sorry, I don’t have insurance.”

Move to other countries to find jobs that you can’t back home. Move to China so that you can have health insurance and live in your own place with your husband. Ok, maybe those last two are more specific to me.

I’m not in abject poverty, but I choked on my tea to see that the average income for a new graduate in 2015 is $44,000. I’ve never made that kind of money in my life! I’m certainly not in poverty compared to those around me in China. But something feels wrong about all the work that I put into my education, and all the work experience I’ve gain since then. It’s not enough to get the life that I was told to expect.

I don’t have high expectations anymore; I want to live in the same country as my husband, have some good and nutritious food to eat, travel a bit, and be able to work (but not the 50 hours per week I’m currently pulling). Maybe someday I’d like to have children and not have to pay $3000 out of pocket at least for each birth. I’d like to have a place to live that isn’t shared between eight people who I don’t know.

It’s just that sometimes even those lowered expectations feel out of reach. It’s especially hard when my government and that of my husband base our right to live as a family on the money we don’t really have. Still harder is having to explain this almost every other day to those around us. Most people still assume that Married=Passport (not since 1927!) or at the very least, Married=Partner Visa. We are too in debt and making too little money to afford to live in the same country unless we go abroad for now.

That’s the life of this Millennial at 27.

3 Comments

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  1. This made me unspeakably sad – how do American student even begin a life with such a large student debt and then find themselves without paying jobs?

    • The answer is slightly less than what I said when a coworker asked me the other day, “How do we even get on the property ladder?”

      “We don’t.”

      But it is a legitimate concern. Life has to shift and priorities have to change.

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