Failure to launch
Via Shawn Fremsted at Inclusionist, I ran across this article by Theda Skocpol reviewing two books about the GI bill (free but annoying registration required). Skocpol notes how unusual the GI bill was in providing assistance to young families:
"But unlike most other U.S. social programs, the G.I. Bill focused its largesse on young adults at just the moment when they were building lives for their families. Usually, we spend money on the elderly, who have earned the nation’s support after a lifetime of work."
The article made me think about Strapped, by Tamara Draut, which I reviewed earlier this year. Draut talks about how the changes in the economy — the increased cost of education, housing, and child care — particularly pinch young adults right when they’re trying to start families.
The key point, I think, is that it was the 50s and 60s that were the anomaly, not today. One of the reasons that, in most of history, men have married younger women is that men were strongly discouraged from marrying until they were able to support a family, and there was no expectation that they’d be able to do at a young age. Older teens and young adults were expected to work, but they typically contributed their labor or earnings to their families of origin. And when times were bad, as in the Great Depression, people married later.
So we’ve got this perverse combination of an economy that all but requires higher education for success (even though a college degree doesn’t guarantee a good job, as Lauren will attest), an educational system that is dependent on student loans, and an expectation that young adults should be able to make it on their own. There’s no historical precedent.