Among the more educated members of the young middle class, the growing cost of higher education and the lower returns from it for many specialties has resulted in generally diminished life outcomes for those people. Even the most successful members of the rising generation — apart from a few outliers — struggle to buy homes, get married, and otherwise become good ‘consumers’ under the modern model.
The older generations — many of whom were among the first in their family lines to attend college — realized stupendous returns from ‘cheap’ subsidized educations which still held some reputational clout. As time has gone on, university education has become relatively more important in the business world for more professions and government employment while the standards have been watered down to accomodate ever more diverse groups of citizens. The criminalization of intelligence testing and other forms of employment filtering also leads to degrees being used as proxies.
The whiny Millennial refrain is that their parents don’t understand just how hard everyone has it these days. Meanwhile, their parents complain about ‘boomerang kids‘ who fail to find adequate employment and need to move back home. In Western Europe in particular, the problem has reached the proportions of a new norm, with only a few countries having rates of less than 30% of adults aged 18-29 still living in the parental household.
Despite much carping over the ‘crisis,’ the only thing that has happened over the last ten years or so has been an exacerbation of the same trend. Bureaucracies have trouble reforming themselves when political leaders are unwilling to jail, fire, or execute the leaders responsible for the problems — otherwise, everyone in charge has a strong incentive to continue giving themselves raises, clawing back money from government treasuries, and otherwise keeping the regulatory system in place which enriches so many in the academic complex.
The root causes of this political problem won’t be addressed, because even beginning to address them has become a taboo. There were some attempts at controlling the problem in past decades, but those have given way to an exacerbation of the root causes, with some quibbling at the edges of the lower-order effects of those causes.
The other real problem is that the quality of the people being produced by Western societies is declining, rather severely. What most older managers and executives will tell you about declining literacy, work ethic, and knowledge levels in junior employees is generally true: up and down the line from the most plebian graduates to the better ones. That’s not something that can be resolved with a clever tweak to the Pell Grant system.
This hints at a larger issue. You can’t solve a problem with the declining genetic quality of a population with new education policies or bold new ideas about re-regulating the already hyper-regulated banking system. Because intelligence is in large part as heritable as eye and hair color, merely focusing more on providing more training-as-education to a population of declining mental quality is unlikely to achieve the hoped-for results.
Because these education certificates — which are often at least partially falsified by inflated grading or pervasive cheating — declare all students to be equal, employers and others have trouble separating the good prospects from the bad one. Everyone becomes skittish, and therefore less willing to trade.
Most in public life are frightened to even begin to broach this problem, because doing so often results in so much social and legal approbium for even the most prestigious scientists, authors, and politicians who bring it up. Despite all this pressure, crisis will have to force us — whether or not our political leaders are interested in making it easier — to acknowledge that we aren’t all equal in most of the ways that matter, and that many important conclusions follow that observation.