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In the 2010s, millennials became the new slasher villain as older generations blamed them for everything.

But the one thing that millennials couldn’t seem to put an end to was a lack of economic opportunity as they entered the job market. Despite being the most educated generation to date, graduating college didn’t put them in better financial shape. So finds a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that compares the financial prospects of the millennial college class of 2013 to that of the Gen X college class of 1996 by examining the unemployment rate and the number of those living with their parents at graduation time.

The unemployment rate for 2013 grads was 12%, compared to 9% for 1996 grads. Of those millennials who were employed, 52% worked jobs that didn’t require a college degree (what NBER calls a mismatch rate)—7% more than those who graduated in 1996 did.

These mismatched jobs typically pay less than “matched” jobs, where total earnings are 12% higher for the 1996 grads and 34% higher for the 2013 grads. What’s more—earnings for mismatched jobs fell by 8% for the class of 2013. That is all to say: Millennials working mismatched jobs were earning less than both the Gen Xers in the same position at their age and their own peers working jobs that required a degree.

Building wealth was even harder for the many millennials shouldering student debt. They were more likely to have student loans than their Gen X counterparts (41% versus 18%), per the NBER research, and to have higher balances—$5,000 more for an average debt total of $25,091. Millennials, along with Gen Z, were most likely to say in a BankRate survey that student loans have held them back from making important financial choices like buying a house or saving for retirement, despite having a degree they felt unlocked new opportunities for them.

Such financial straits might explain why more 2013 grads (31%) were also living at home with their parents than 1996 grads (25%), something that in the short term showed economic difficulties and in the long term helped those down on their luck save up.

Chloe Berger

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