I am subscribed to Harper’s Magazine and enjoy reading it every month. One of my favorite sections of the publication, and the item that drew me to the magazine when I was a teenager, is the Harper’s Index. In the Harper’s Index, they list off a number of statistics in a manner that usually come off as surprising and humorous. For example, here are two statistics from their January 2013 issue:
Average salary earned by a full-time-employed male college graduate one year after graduation: $42,918
By a full-time-employed female graduate: $35,296
What they’re doing here is highlighting the difference pay for men and women and how women still aren’t treated as equals in the workplace.
But then I started thinking about my own situation as a member of the millennial generation, and here are some of my own statistics, presented in the Harper’s Index style:
Number of years since I’ve graduated from college: 8
Number of masters degrees I’ve obtained: 1
Highest hourly wage that I’ve earned in the U.S.: $11
Average annual salary amount this translates to: $22,000
Percent lower than the average female salary one year after graduation from college: 38
Percent lower than the average male salary one year after graduation from college: 49
Number of months that I’ve had health insurance in the U.S. since graduating from college: 3
As a person born in the early 1980s, I consider myself to be of the so-called “millennial” generation. Like many of my generation, I did everything I was supposed to do: I went to college, I got my degree, I volunteered abroad for several years, I got my MBA, I worked in a field I enjoyed, etc. Then in September 2012, I found myself looking for a job in Oregon. And I couldn’t find any full-time, stable employment. And I still can’t find any.
So what’s going on, America? I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Where is this well-paying job that I should have, according to Harper’s Index? Well, the same Index also has this item:
Rank of “attire” among the leading reasons “millennials” are unsuccessful in job interviews: 1
To which my response, in Index style, is:
Number of tailored suits I own: 2
Approximate number of ties in my closet: 20
Approximate number of tie knot styles I have memorized: 3
My qualifications are sound, I know how to dress and present myself, so what’s going on, America? Why can’t I find a job? Is it because nepotism, cronyism and corruption are just as prevalent here in the land of the free as they are in third-world countries? Is it because that, no matter what the job reports and economic forecasts say, the American economy is dying a slow death?
For such a large nation, an incredible amount of the U.S. economy is based on personal debt. You want a college degree? Here’s your debt. You want a car? Gotta take out a loan to pay for it. Want a house? Gotta get a mortgage and pay back your debt for 30 years or so. Well America, you tricked me into the college loan debt, but not the other stuff. Here, let me present it in the Harper’s Index style:
Number of cars I’ve owned in the U.S.: 0
Amount of real estate I own in the U.S.: 0
Number of cars I intend to buy in the U.S.: 0
Amount of real estate I intend to buy in the U.S.: 0
And it looks like I’m not the only one. Increasing numbers of my generation are not buying cars and owning a home is becoming a more unattainable dream. Good for us! If the American economy is suddenly faced with a generation of people who refuse to buy into these lifelong debt schemes, change might actually occur.
Allen Ginsberg wrote: “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” I’d like to amend that quote for many people of my generation: “American I’ve given you all and you’ve taken more.”
As this year of 2012 draws to a close, here’s my favorite statistic, presented in Index style:
Number of years until I will go back to Vietnam: 1
Yes Vietnam, where jobs are plentiful, rents are low and you don’t need a car.