The New York Post reports that unemployment among young Americans is now 52.2 percent. I’ve been thinking for some time now that, although no one seems to talk about it, part of the fallout of job loss among adults is that even part-time service jobs are getting snatched up before teenagers can get them. (Certainly the faces at the drive-through windows in my town are at least twice the age they used to be.)
When I was 16, a part-time job after school and weekends not only gave me some spending money, it literally changed my life. (Buy me a beer sometime, and I’ll explain.) By 18, I was working full time and able to pair up with a friend to rent an apartment. Negotiating responsibility for our bills and learning to share a living space was, in effect, a coming-of-age period that prepared me for adulthood.
Of course, college students get a similar experience living in dorms and later off campus, doing their own laundry, getting themselves to meals, and so on. But what about all those kids who don’t go to college, or who—like me—don’t manage to until their 30’s or beyond? Without this coming-of-age experience, how will they mature?
Just one more way in which our culture as a whole suffers as a result of this recent economic meltdown. And still the hoarders of wealth that caused it go unpunished.