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Americans aged 45 and younger face a longer, more difficult road to get a ‘good’ job — one that pays at least $35,000 a year

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By Zoe Han

Finding a good job is harder and takes longer for today’s young people than it did for young people 20 years ago.

That’s according to two new reports from the Georgetown   University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), which suggest that while most baby boomers were able to settle into a good job by their mid-twenties, older millennials are reaching this bar a lot later — mostly in their thirties.

The reports defined a ”good” job as one paying at least $35,000 for people under age 45, and at least $45,000 for people 45 and older. “At the median, these goodjobs pay $57,000 for young workers (ages 25 to 35) nationwide,” the report authors wrote.

The ticket to those good jobs comes at a higher cost today compared to 20 years ago, because postsecondary degrees — such as bachelor’s or master’s — are more valuable in the job market.

By the age of 35, young workers with those degrees are twice as likely to have a good job than workers without those credentials today. Among today’s younger workers, 80% of people who have a bachelor’s degree or higher have a good job, while 56% of those who have some college experience or an associate’s degree have a good job. For people with only a high school diploma, 42% had a good job; 26% of those who never finished high school had a good job, the reports found.

The longer journey to finding a good job has long-term impacts to the economic well-being of young people, the authors noted.

“For many young adults, not having a good job means not being able to buy a house, not being able to pay back their student loans, and not having sufficient financial security to pursue their aspirations while facing life’s inevitable mishaps,” said Artem Gulish, the report author and a senior policy strategist and research faculty at CEW.

As the price of college tuition has swelled compared to 20 years ago, degree-seekers are incurring higher educational debts. Coupled with the longer transition to “good” jobs, that means young people are accumulating less wealth than the last generation. Households led by 35-year-olds are have less than two-thirds of the net worth than those in the same age group 20 years ago, the reports found, yet the share of households with educational debt has risen in the past decades, as well as the median amount of those debts.

Gender and race-based inequities affect the path to a good job as well. Young white workers have better chances of getting a good job than their Black and Hispanic peers. The reports found that it takes roughly 10 years for young Black workers to catch up with young white workers’ chances of getting a good job in their mid-twenties, and more than a decade for Hispanic young workers.

For women, although more young women today are able to get better jobs than the last generation, they still lag behind men — and even when they have higher education degrees, the gaps remain. The gaps are more striking when racial and gender difference are combined, the authors noted. For example, a young Hispanic woman is half as likely to have a good job as a young white man is.

“Disparities in educational attainment play a bigger role in economic inequality than in the past, but equity gaps by race and gender persist even among young workers at the same education level,” said Kathryn Peltier Campbell, report author and CEW associate director of editorial policy and senior editor/writer.

The reports are part of a series called the Uncertain Pathway from Youth to a Good Job, funded by the philanthropic arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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