Bonus Episode: Silver Linings for Students Graduating Into a Recession

10m ·

Bonus Episode: Silver Linings for Students Graduating Into a Recession

Impact of Economic Downturns on Young Adults

College students who graduate into a recession certainly experience obstacles according to Dr. Bianchi, Associate Professor of Organization & Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Young adults are often the last to be hired during a recession and this can be quite challenging because they have very few work experience and skills and the entry-level jobs they go after are usually the first to go. As a result, unemployment for young adults usually jumps significantly during recessions, much higher than the unemployment rate for others. 


Professor Bianchi became interested in how this shapes young adults for a long period to come. During the Great Recession, there were many stories about the 2009 graduation season and how students were doomed. There have been studies to show that young people graduating during a recession earn less for decades. Other studies have shown that people who graduate in recessions tend to have lower levels of occupational prestige. Even if they do become chief executive officers, they tend to become CEOs of smaller, less prestigious firms. There's no question that, economically, the effects are real, that people who graduate in a recession do earn less, and you see that for a long time to come. But the effects are also pretty small.


Given all the worry and all the difficulty of finding their first job could graduates be happier once they are hired by an employer? Dr. Bianchi found that people who graduated in worse economic times reported greater job satisfaction than people who graduated in better economic times. There are hardships and challenges. The difficulties are serious, but there are some long-lasting positive implications down the road.

Recessions Long-term Impact on Young Adults


There has been a fair amount of work on people's attitudes towards money, right? Economists have found that people who come of age in recessions tend to be more risk-averse with money and tend to choose less financially-risky strategies. Even as CEOs, they tend to be more risk-averse in how they invest their company's money. Using the metric of narcissism, Dr. Bianchi studied how people who come of age during a recession view themselves compared to other people. Narcissism is a sense of entitlement, a sense of grandiosity, a sense that one deserves better outcomes than other people. She looked at the characteristics heightened optimism, and individualism and wondered if people who came of age in that time are more narcissistic than people who came into age in a time where there was more uncertainty. Dr. Bianchi found that people who come of age in recessions score lower in narcissism, clinical narcissism, and sub-clinical narcissism. 


According to Dr. Bianchi, young adulthood is a very transformational time in people's lives. Most are leaving their childhood homes, communities, and families and begin to develop an adult identity. They are figuring out who they are, who they want to be, what they believe in, and what they don't believe in. People overwhelmingly mention things that happened when they were young adults. All of these seem to suggest that what's going on in the greater environment, in the greater kind of cultural landscape or economic landscape, helps formulate those identities, helps shape those identities in ways that last throughout adulthood.


Dr. Bianchi says this will be an interesting generation to watch over the next couple decades.

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