The New York Times has an article out today that’s about how young adults are struggling in the high-unemployment economy, to the point that some have been forced to resort to staying at homeless shelters. At one point, the piece cites this example of a young person hard-hit by the economy:
In Washington, D.C., Lance Fuller, a 26-year-old with a degree in journalism, spent the end of last month packing up a one-bedroom apartment he can no longer afford after being laid off. Mr. Fuller said he had been unable to keep a job for more than eight months since graduating from the University of Florida in 2010.
“Thankfully, I have a girlfriend who is willing to let me stay with her until I get back on my feet again,” said Mr. Fuller, who writes a blog, Voices of a Lost Generation. “It’s really hard for people in my generation not to feel completely defeated by this economy.”
What immediately startled me was that Fuller was ever able to afford his own apartment.
Now I don’t know the full story: Maybe Fuller lived in an unsafe neighborhood (and hence paid a low rent rate), maybe he actually did save a decent chunk of money but all the layoffs have cut into his savings, etc., etc. But the Times doesn’t share any of that with us. Instead, the reader (presumably) will react with horror: What are we coming to, that a twentysomething college graduate can’t afford his own apartment?
But since when was it a reasonable assumption that a twentysomething college graduate could afford his own apartment in D.C.?
I’m something of a veteran of the New York/D.C. area housing markets (five places over three-and-a-half years), and I can’t think of more than one friend I have in either city, regardless of what field they work in, and regardless of how long a commute they’re willing to endure, who is in her 20s and doesn’t have a roommate. The rents are just too astronomical. Is that frustrating? Absolutely. But is it equivalent to being pushed to the point where you have to stay at a homeless shelter? Of course not.
And as an ’09 college graduate; I’m certainly familiar with what a terrible job market and starting salaries recent grads are facing, and how common it is to be laid off.
But it’s not fair to those who are really, really struggling — like the fast-food worker who is sleeping at a homeless shelter in the story — to equate their difficulties with those of college grads who can’t have it all just yet.