The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. But the story that so many hear from mass media — if not also from friends and family — is that you just need to work harder — and that talented people make it because they have something to give to the world. The era of perpetual parental support (assuming it is even possible) is now upon us — with the increased pressure of downward mobility.
College and grad school are increasing drastically in expense. According to The Economist, “between 2001 and 2010 the cost of a university education soared from 23% of median annual earnings to 38%; in consequence, debt per student has doubled in the past 15 years.” 2.6% of Master’s degree recipients, 9.7% of doctoral degree recipients, 36.2% of law school graduates and 49.0% of medical school graduates graduated with six-figure debt.
The state of journalism is such that to make it in New York, the at-the-time editor-in-chief from Gawker couch-surfed and then roommated. And Gawker has a series of posts about the difficulty of finding decent housing for (mostly underpaid college grads) in large cities. And to pile on to the discouraging news for those trying to make it in NYC, the New York Times had a lengthy story all about how many of the most expensive residences in the city — including those on Central Park — are not actually lived in — Why Buy a Condo You Seldom Use? Because You Can.
New grads frequently have to work unpaid internships to get a foot in the door — jobs that used to be entry-level positions. As Phoebe Maltz Bovy states in the Atlantic:
Today, students and college-educated young women who seem as though they might have parental financial assistance (even if they do not) have proven an easy-to-exploit workforce. The expectation that one will be available to work for free extends beyond those from wealthy families,…. And women remain financially insecure for longer and longer, thanks in part to parental largesse and trust funds, but also in part to parental and individual financial struggle and debt.
Journalism is becoming a field where only those with means can afford to join the profession:
the news media’s current economic climate doesn’t just shrink newsrooms and kill magazines: it also reifies professional class barriers, making it tougher for aspiring journalists from working-class backgrounds to obtain steady jobs or big soapboxes.
And I can understand why so many give up on trying to use their degrees in journalism. Thank you, Gawker for pointing out in the midst of the snark about disgraced plagiarist Jonah Lehner’s speech for Knight Foundation’s 2013 “Media Learning Seminar” that for a lunchtime talk he was paid $20,000– the equivalent of almost half of the 2012 Median Income of US households ($45,018). For his 45 minute talk, he was paid more per hour than Adele — who makes £41,000 (about $63,600) a day!
One small step I’ve made to appreciate the strivers out there is to no longer watch award shows any more because they mostly celebrate who already have enough praise. The one touching moment I saw at the Grammy awards was when fun. (a band I abhor) thanked their families for supporting them through twelve years of touring — including letting them “live at home for a long time.” It shouldn’t be that hard out there to make it — but it is.