The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Print and Broadcast Contact: Tim Rush, (917) 399-0236,
Web Media Contact: Gennady Kolker, (925) 437-4522,

National Youth Economic Movement Convenes in Washington DC

Squeezed by the Recession, Young Adults Coming Together to Seek “A Better Deal” Through Broad Economic Reforms


-Young adults across America are reeling from the effects of the recession, with rising unemployment, higher education increasingly out of reach, and diminishing prospects of an economically secure future. To reverse this trend, the national public policy and advocacy center Demos, along with partner organizations from around the nation, is building a movement of young adults to support policy reforms that will lead to a new social contract-and an economic recovery comprised of good jobs, widespread opportunity and a path to financial stability that will last well into the future.

On October 15 and 16, Demos is holding their annual conference for this movement, entitled "A Better Deal: Reclaiming our Economic Security Now!" This convening brings young leaders from around the country together to discuss the most pressing economic concerns facing their generation and the policy reforms that can address them. Participants include politically-engaged young adults, community organizers, young elected officials, policy advocates, get-out-the-vote volunteers from 2008, community and four-year college students, and others engaged in a collective effort to elevate this generation's economic crisis onto the national agenda, to offer policy substance to sustain the rise in youth voting, and to forge partnerships for future reform efforts. Attendees will examine ways to connect politics to the personal financial struggles of young voters, and forge connections with others to build a movement for a better deal in their communities.

"This generation of young people is the first in years to start their adult lives not only worse off than their parents, but also with fewer prospects for long-term financial security," said Tamara Draut, Vice-President of Policy and Programs at Demos and author of "Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead."

"Young adults have been hit hard by the recession, and unless we shift policy to deal with pressing issues-good jobs, affordable education, housing costs, rising debt-then their future economic potential will be severely hamstrung. Fortunately, young people are engaging in politics in a way we haven't seen for a long time. They are going to drive this agenda and make Congress take note."

"A Better Deal" will feature a special keynote address from AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler. She is the first woman and (as of 2009) the youngest person to hold the position of Secretary-Treasurer. Shuler is the highest-ranking woman in the labor federation's history. Her election also marked the first time that two of the three officer positions in the AFL-CIO were held by women.

Tamara Draut will also deliver a lunch keynote on the economic challenges of young adults which will explain the 30-year long decline confronting young workers and how we can begin to restore opportunity and economic security for this generation and the nation.

Workshop panels will cover a range of topics, including:

--Going Beyond Green: Creating Good Jobs Across the Economy
--Failing to Finish: The College Drop-Out Crisis and Why It Matters
--It's Sick: Why Health Care Reform Matters to Young People
--A Generation in the Red: Will the New Credit Card Reforms and Student Loan Repayment Plans Make a Difference?
--Politics in the Age of Obama: How the Millennial Generation is Remaking American Democracy
--Generational Theft? Understanding the National Debt, Social Security and What It Means for Your Future
--On the Rebound? The Great Recession and Its Impact on Young People.
--And Baby Makes Broke: The Desperate Need for Paid Family Leave and Child Care ?

The economic concerns driving the youth vote to be discussed at the conference are highlighted in a new accompanying Demos fact sheet examining the impact of the recession on today's 18 to 24 year olds. Findings include:

--During the second quarter of 2009, young workers under 25 had an underemployment rate of 31.9 percent. Underemployment for workers ages 25 to 34 was 17.1 percent and 13.7 percent for workers ages 35 to 44.

--Nearly half of students who enroll in college will drop out before earning a degree. Even among the students most likely to succeed-those who begin college as full-time students at four-year institutions-only three out of five complete a bachelor's degree within six years. Among young students (under age 24) enrolled at community colleges, fewer than two out of five complete some kind of credential within six years.

--In a 2006 survey of college graduates under 35, more than a third said it will take them more than 10 years to pay off their household's education-related debt. Between student loans and credit card debt, today's young adults must devote an increasing share of their incomes to debt payments.

--Stagnant incomes and high-cost debt have affected homeownership among young people. Between 2006 and 2008, the total numbers of homeowners decreased slightly, but declines were much larger for people under age 30-in 2008 there were 4.8 percent fewer homeowners among adults under 25 and 4.3 percent fewer among those 25 to 29 year old.

"This national movement of young adults seeks to reverse a three-decade decline in economic security and galvanize support for a new social contract for this and future generations," said Nancy K. Cauthen, Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos. "Their message is clear: in states and in Washington, our leaders need to act swiftly and decisively to enact reforms that will create a path to economic security."

Partners in the "A Better Deal Conference" include: The American Prospect; APIAVote; Building Movement Project; Campus Camp Wellstone!; Campus Progress; Center for Progressive Leadership; Drum Major Institute; Everyday Citizen; Future; GenChange; Generational Alliance; Hip Hop Caucus; Jobs with Justice;; NAACP Youth and College Division; The Nation; National Council of La Raza; Progressive Book Club; The Project on Student Debt; Project Pericles; Qvisory; Rock the Vote; Roosevelt Institute Campus Network; Student Association for Voter Empowerment; U.S. PIRG; The Young Elected Officials Network; United States Student Association; Voto Latino; WireTap; Young People For.

To download information about the A Better Deal Project, a full conference agenda, the new Demos fact sheets on the Recession and Young Adults, and the report "Work Less, Study More & Succeed" examining how to improve community college access and graduation rates, visit

Members of the Press:
To arrange a print or broadcast interview, contact Tim Rusch at or (917) 399-0236. Social media and web inquiries should go to Gennady Kolker at or (925) 437-4522.

Demos is a think tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through cutting-edge policy research, inspiring litigation, and deep relationships with grassroots organizations, Demos champions solutions that will create a democracy and economy rooted in racial equity.