I want to recommend Joel Kotkin’s post at Quillette on the decline of aspiration all over the developed world. Here’s a snippet:
In the United States, about 90 percent of children born in 1940 grew up to experience higher incomes than their parents, according to researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project. That figure dropped to only 50 percent of those born in the 1980s. The US Census bureau estimates that, even when working full-time, people in their late twenties and early thirties earn $2000 less in real dollars than the same age cohort in 1980. More than 20 percent of people aged 18 to 34 live in poverty, up from 14 percent in 1980. Three-quarters of American adults today predict their child will not grow up to be better-off than they are, according to Pew.
These sentiments are even more pronounced in France, Britain, Spain, Italy, and Germany. In Japan, a remarkable three-quarters of those polled said they believe things will be worse for the next generation. Even in China, many young people face a troubling future; in 2017, eight million graduates entered the job market, but most ended up with salaries that could have been attained by going to work in a factory straight out of high school.
I cannot tell you what factors underpin the attitudes of young Australians or young French men and women. The preponderance of the evidence here in the United States suggests that young people are not forming families, not buying homes and all of the things associated with homeownership, not because they prefer it that way but because they can’t afford to and the main reasons for that are educational debt and slow growth in the number of jobs they thought that more education would provide them.
Among my siblings and me half of us have incomes greater than our parents’ ever were. The other half earned less than our family did when we were growing up. Of their children only one is likely to have a family income that equals that of his parents. Most are tenuously holding on to middle class status. About half have post-graduate degrees.