Kids These Days

Kids These Days

Human Capital and the Making of Millennials

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"A Millennial's groundbreaking investigation into why his generation is economically worse off than their parents, creating a radical and devastating portrait of what it means to be young in America. Millennials have been called lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and immature, but when you push aside the stereotypes, what actually unites this generation? The short answer: They've been had. Millennials are the hardest working and most educated generation in American history. They have poured unprecedented amounts of time and money into preparing themselves for the twenty-first-century workforce. Yet they are poorer, more medicated, more precariously employed, and have less of a social safety net than their parents or grandparents. Kids These Days asks why, and answers with a radical, brilliant, data-driven analysis of the economic and cultural forces that have shaped Millennial lives. Examining broad trends like runaway student debt, the rise of the intern, mass incarceration, social media, and more, Harris shows us a generation conditioned from birth to treat their lives and their efforts-their very selves and futures-as human capital to be invested. But what happens when children raised as investments grow up? Why are young people paying such a high price to train themselves for a system that exploits them? How can Millennials change or transcend what's been made of them? Gripping, mercilessly argued, deeply informed, and moving fluidly between critical theory, political policy, and pop culture, Kids These Days will wake you up, make you angry, and change how you see your place in the world. This is essential reading-not only for Millennials, but for anyone ready to take a hard look at how we got here and where we're headed if we don't change course fast"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
Edition: First Edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780316510868
Branch Call Number: 305.242 Har
Characteristics: ix, 261 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 23, 2019

millennial article called it out.

Jan 25, 2018

Millennials historical contemporary context.

In the Media, you often hear how spoiled Millennials are. This book sets the record straight. Instead, they are the most educated, smartest, hardest working, and most stressed out generation ever.

When a generation is born is a driver of its destiny. There has been a confluence of sociodemographic headwinds against Millennials. Just to name a few:

1) The Great Recession and its aftermath, since 2007 employment opportunities for college graduates have dwindled. Harris indicates that underemployment for Millennials has doubled since 2007. And, real wages for young graduates have declined by 8.5% between 2000 and 2012;
2) The acceleration of automation. Amazon, Facebook, Google are delighting us as consumers and wiping us out as wage-earners; and
3) An aging society with a rising fiscal burden from social entitlements is associated with slower economic growth, rising Public debt, and fewer fiscal resources for youth;

Harris depicts the impact of those trends on Millennials. “Human capital” characterizes the obsession that families with Millennials have in rendering Millennials as valuable within the job market. Human capital is a euphemism for the “rat race.” Everyone exhaust themselves to do their best. But, since everyone is doing it no one moves forward.

Harris observes that Millennials human capital formation costs are increasingly passed on to them. Colleges require them to undertake numerous unpaid internships before they graduate. College costs are skyrocketing as they have risen in real terms by 220% over the past 30 years. For Millennials this translates into providing more free-labor, working more for low wages (in 1960 only 25% of full time students worked, now 70% do), and incurring unsustainable student debt levels. But, how about if there are no good jobs at the end of this expensive human capital accumulation? That’s the question Harris addresses.

Harris states that the educational complex is abusive. Unpaid internships are rather useless. A large national study in 2013 indicated internships did not have a material impact on prospective employment. 37% of interns got jobs with a median salary of $35,721. Meanwhile, 35.2% of non-interns got jobs with a median salary of $37,087.

Sports are relentlessly competitive. Harris indicates that only 4% of high school football players make it on college teams. And, only 2% of college players make it to the pros. Thus, out of 1,000 high school football players only 8 make it to the pros.

Unending competition exerts mental stress on Millennials. It is a rat race on prescription drugs. Here are a few drugs use that has grown among Millennials:
a) Ritalin to manage ADHD and improve mental performance;
b) Propanolol to curb anxiety; and
c) antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil) to manage depression.

In the conclusion Harris anticipates the future based on current trends. Human capital will be increasingly monetized. This will be done by already existing human capital contracts (student loans repayable with a % of future earnings).

Also, human capital is going to get sorted out earlier. A segment of the youth will become earmarked for technical training bypassing college. This is the European model.

Social discrimination will become more prevalent with the advent of Big Data. With such abundant data, companies can figure people’s race, gender, and age without asking.

There will be a large population of “malfunctioning” that will be a permanent unemployed underclass. The State will become responsible for them. This is a vision shared by Charles Murray in “Coming Apart.” Given existing fiscal constraint, it is unclear where the money will come from.

Harris advances that misogyny will resurface as women fare better in the job market.

Jan 13, 2018

I had an extended comment about his, but my computer refreshed, so I'll just summarize it in a couple paragraphs:

The broad strokes are spot on, and he often hits the nail on the head. His resolution of the finer details, when he goes after them, is sometimes a little off. To be fair, each of the issues requires a dearth of books written by experts on their own, which there are, and he references. It's also clear, in the end, that Harris suffers from activist burnout. While I agree with him that the direct effect of the usually prescribed solutions aren't so directly useful, he doesn't consider their more indirect consequences (e.g: The Occupy Wall Street protest may not changed anything directly, but it did put the notion of the 1% into the vernacular; while voting doesn't often result in a dramatic or fundamentally systemic change, I think it should be apparent by now that it can do things like shift the Overton window, not to mention that saying voting does absolutely nothing is a position of someone who doesn't have a personal stake in something like, say, abortion rights).

But the point is to diagnose the problem through a materialist lens, and he delivers well. Overall, this book makes an excellent connective tissue for issues that otherwise appear disparate.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at STPL

To Top