Support the news

A Generation's Changing American Dream47:31
Download

Play

Young Americans still hitting economic and career headwinds, and how that’s changing their American Dream.

Two young people at a tea house in New York City. (j-No/Flickr)
Two young people at a tea house in New York City. (j-No/Flickr)

Everybody knows how tough it’s been for a generation of young Americans just hitting the workforce – or trying to - in the last half dozen years.  American twenty-somethings have walked straight into a wall of recession.  Been knocked back into parents’ homes and recalculations of what life will bring.

My guest today Jennifer Silva says that recalculation is deeper than you may understand – especially for low-income Americans.  Back on their heels and feeling betrayed, she says, they are redefining the American dream sharply downward.

This hour, On Point:  young Americans’ new dreams.
- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jennifer Silva, author of "Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty" and sociologist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Justin St. Germain, author of "Son of a Gun: A Memoir" and professor of creative non-fiction at the University of New Mexico. (@jstgerma)

From Tom's Reading List

The Boston Globe: Jennifer Silva: Working-Class Youth Are ‘Privatizing happiness’ -- "Silva, who is now at Harvard University on a postdoctoral fellowship, set out to talk with some of these young people about how they were managing the transition to adulthood in the post-industrial economy. In 100 in-depth, in-person interviews, she found a new working-class adult 'bewildered in the labor market, betrayed by institutions, distrustful of love, disconnected from others, and committed to emotional growth.'"

The New York Times: Crumbling American Dreams -- "My hometown — Port Clinton, Ohio, population 6,050 — was in the 1950s a passable embodiment of the American dream, a place that offered decent opportunity for the children of bankers and factory workers alike. But a half-century later, wealthy kids park BMW convertibles in the Port Clinton High School lot next to decrepit “junkers” in which homeless classmates live. The American dream has morphed into a split-screen American nightmare. And the story of this small town, and the divergent destinies of its children, turns out to be sadly representative of America."

WBUR: Generation Stuck — "For the average twenty-something, it means feeling overqualified, underemployed, and overwhelmed. Stuck. Kat and Sam are two young people for whom the economic and psychological challenges of a generation have taken a very personal toll."

Excerpt: "Coming Up Short" By Jennifer Silva

Excerpt: "Son Of A Gun" By Justin St. Germain

Excerpted from SON OF A GUN by Justin St. Germain.  Copyright © 2013 by Justin St. Germain. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

This program aired on August 19, 2013.

+Join the discussion
TwitterfacebookEmail

Support the news