Author discusses lasting outcomes of recession


College graduates of the millennial generation will experience the deepest impact of the United States’ recession, said Don Peck, features editor of The Atlantic Magazine.

Peck spoke to about 40 University students and faculty about his book, “Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It,” last night in the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development on Livingston Avenue.

He stressed that people under the age of 30 will suffer from long-term consequences of the recession in their careers.

The editor cited a Yale University study that looked at college graduates in a recession period from 1980 and 1981. It found those graduates were paid 25 percent less than graduates before and after them.

The study also showed that those graduates clung on to their jobs more than non-recession graduates, Peck said at the event, which was co-hosted by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

He said the millennial generation has always been told they are special and they can accomplish anything.

“More recently, that sentiment has gone away. Many are now living at home and basic privileges and responsibilities, like marriage, are moving further and further down the road,” he said.

Peck said longer recessions cause more long-term problems, which are detrimental to the graduates’ confidence, health and employability.

“We don’t go back to being the same sort of society before the crash,” he said. “We will be changed by high unemployment and economic malaise.”

The biggest change caused by the recession is the hollowing of the middle class, especially the non-professional working class or those who only have a high school diploma, which accounts for 60 percent of the population, Peck said.

“If you look more deeply at jobs, you see a much more worrying phenomenon. Overwhelmingly, the jobs that have been lost are middle-skill jobs,” he said.

Peck said students should fear the loss of middle-class jobs because of restructuring within companies.

“[It is] unlikely we will reach the same heights of construction or manufacturing jobs. They can be replaced by machines or lower-wage workers throughout the United States,” he said.

But Peck said not all long-term effects are bad. The recession will return the United States to a conservative era, which was lost after long periods of inflation in the 1970s, he said.

“There will be a new relationship to money now, which was also there in the periods after the 1920s,” he said. “We will see a turning back toward thrift and that is probably a good thing.”

Peck studied government and economics at Dartmouth College and earned a master’s degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

He writes about economics and culture for The Atlantic and edits the monthly magazine’s cover stories, said Carl Van Horn, director for the Heldrich Center and the event’s host.

Van Horn, a professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, said the Heldrich Center does not often invite journalists, but Peck was an exception he was proud to have.

“He looks at the big picture on what [the recession] means economically and culturally, and it was important for the University community to understand that and hopefully use that in their research,” he said.

Mark Szeltner, an Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy graduate student, said Peck’s lecture was a good echo chamber for researchers.

Szeltner, 25, said he came to graduate school after working at Johnson & Johnson.

“The pressure to get a job is pretty high,” he said. “To come from a job, to going to graduate school and then going back out there for a job is pretty difficult.”


By Tabish Talib

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