The Rebellion of America’s New Underclass, by Joel Kotkin

The economic prospects of the young people are bleak, and certainly not helped by the mountains of debt their elders are leaving them. From Joel Kotkin at americanmind.org:

Serf’s up.

Like so many before them, our recent disorders have been rooted in issues of race. But in the longer run, the underlying causes of our growing civic breakdown go beyond the brutal police killing of George Floyd. Particularly in our core cities, our dysfunction is a result of our increasingly large, and increasingly multi-racial, class of neo-serfs.

Like its Medieval counterpart, today’s serf class consists of the permanently marginalized—like the peasants of feudal times, these people are unlikely to move to a higher station. This does not only apply to the residents of our ghettos and barrios. Many of our young people, white and otherwise, appear to have little or no hope of attaining the usual milestones of entry into the middle class—gaining a useful and marketable skill, starting a small business, or buying a home or other property.

Throughout much of the 20th century, this aspiration was very much alive as more and more people, including racial minorities and immigrants, entered the middle ranks. Now, in contrast, the doors are slamming shut for millions of Americans.

This trend has been made worse by the lockdowns surrounding the pandemic. Almost 40% of those Americans making under $40,000 a year have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate of those with less than a high-school diploma jumped from 6.8% on the month to 21.2%. For college graduates, it rose from 2.5% to 8.4%. Salaried workers have been laid off at roughly half the rate of hourly workers.

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