Entering what should be the prime of their working lives and family-forming years, Millennials are coming of age in an era of uncertainty. Navigating the road to adulthood has become more arduous for this rising generation, which is reordering their aspirations and complicating life decisions. Undeniably, the prevailing social policy framework is out-of-step with the Millennial experience, creating a social and economic precariousness that is undermining the potential of an entire generation. Opportunities and security nets once available to their parents are more elusive or no longer exist. The combination of the job-killing Great Recession and a general rollback in social protections, typified by a push to deregulate markets and replace pensions with individual 401(k)-type retirement plans, has saddled individuals with risks that previously had been collectivized. In order to reverse downward mobility, we must advance a new set of ideas that help create more pathways to progress for the rising generations.
The Millennials Initiative at New America will examine the challenges facing this generation of young adults (born between 1980 and 2000) as they aspire to assemble the basic building blocks of success—getting an education, finding a job, managing finances, buying a home, raising a family, and engaging socially and politically in a community. Policies explicitly designed to create these avenues of economic opportunity for Millennials will be as diverse as the generation, but will necessarily create the means to better access educational and training opportunities, develop secure financial lives, afford child rearing, and raise healthy families. Since these ideas will work best if they align with the prevailing generational attitudes, preferences, and attributes, we need the engagement of Millennials to help drive this ideas-generation process. Millennials should have a seat at the policy-making table.
Among the primary activities of the Millennials Initiative are a public policy fellowship and a program of in-depth policy research focused on supporting the development of a forward-looking policy agenda.
The fellowship is designed to identify a diverse cohort of remarkable young adults capable of contributing to constructive public policy discourse, and to support their professional development as future leaders, critical thinkers, and policy entrepreneurs. By creating a unique opportunity to deepen their exposure to contemporary policy issues, they will be able to focus their energies on identifying promising policy ideas to address specific challenges confronting their generation. The inaugural class of fellows was selected in May 2017.
The policy research is a collaborative and cross-cutting effort, bringing together experts from a wide range of policy programs and initiatives at New America. Initial policy topics include: work and the economy, technology and cybersecurity, the future of building wealth, education and training, work and family, and social engagement and political participation. With the goal of engaging policymakers and fostering a constructive public discourse, this effort aims to identify a set of solutions that has the potential to be implemented at scale in order to make a difference in the lives of young adults.