Citing a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts the Washington Post is out to panic the millennials a story about how a wave of downward mobility driving Americans out of the middle class. It turns out a number of Americans whose parents were middle class don’t do as well once they are out on their own.
Downward mobility is most common among middle-class people who are divorced or separated from their spouses, did not attend college, scored poorly on standardized tests, or used hard drugs, the report says.“A middle-class upbringing does not guarantee the same status over the course of a lifetime,” the report says.
The Post seems to be spinning this as one of those tragically diminishing American middle class stories: the country is falling apart, upward mobility is a myth, we are all going to be living on cat food and the millennial generation will be living in its parents’ garage until the parents lose their house in a foreclosure.Oh — and there’s a social injustice angle: minorities and single women have a harder time staying in the middle class as American life gets inexorably worse. Uneducated people and drug addicts are also prone to slipping through the cracks and falling out of the middle class.But turn that around and what do you get? A fairly simple recipe for staying in the middle class: Go to college, get married, stay married, steer clear of hard drugs.Do those simple things and the odds are on your side. The keys to a financially successful life seem to be family, education, sobriety. Seems boring and obvious, doesn’t it? But it also suggests that American life isn’t quite as bad as the press wants to paint it.There are lots of scary economic trends out there, but pessimism can be overdone. Take a deep breath and relax, millennials. The press hypes bad economic news and troubling trends the same way it hypes hurricanes and for the same reason: panic sells.America is still a place where hard work and smart thinking pay off; most of you are going to get out of your parents’ house sooner than the press would have you believe.