Generation Debt

<i>Why Now Is the Worst Time to Be Young.</i> By Anya Kamenetz. <i>Riverhead Books. $23.95.</i>

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


I worked my way through college in five years with scholarships, grants, loans, and three jobs. That makes me a member of “Generation Debt”—one of the twenty- and thirtysomethings born into an era of unsurpassed opportunities and unprecedented arrears. On average, we graduate from college more than $20,000 in hock, facing a job market with declining earnings and nonexistent job security. “With so many of us heading into our 30s with five figures of debt,” writes Anya Kamenetz in this sometimes brilliant, sometimes banal book, “saving for a far-off retirement sounds like a joke—even breaking even seems like a remote possibility.”

Through dozens of interviews and a barrage of statistics, Kamenetz, a 25-year-old Yale graduate and Village Voice columnist, documents higher education’s historic transformation into an $85-billion-a-year loan industry. But she often substitutes pop-culture clichés and rhetoric about wealth redistribution for tough questions about policy and personal responsibility. How much debt is due to an unfair system, and how much is due to bad decisions by young people or their parents?

Either way, debt sidetracks careers and suffocates dreams. Faced with lingering loans and credit card bills, too many young people feel they must, as one young grad tells Kamenetz, “go through your life doing something you don’t want to do…. If your only option is taking out loans, it sucks you right back into the system.” For me, the American Dream is still alive—it’s just under the table, hiding out from Sallie Mae and Citigroup.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate