Yup, You're Probably Underemployed

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You've heard it all before: Millennials are the most educated (and debt-ridden) generation in American history. Yet for all that education, it may seem impossible to get jobs that fit your expertise and experience. It's easy to blame yourself for that, in a world where everyone's best selves are carefully on display on social media, curated to reveal no cracks in the surface.

As a generation, we are actually up against some profoundly difficult macro forces. If you've been feeling down on yourself about the state of your career and life milestones, give yourself a little credit. You're doing what you can against some of the worst economic circumstances since the Great Depression.

Underemployment itself — people working jobs that are less demanding and financially rewarding than their background merits — is at an even higher rate than it was in the early 2000s, amid a bear market and the bust-up of the Dot Com era. For workers in their mid-20s, the underemployment rate is a staggering 41.3 percent. The middle class also hasn't recovered in 48 states over the past two decades; meanwhile, the top 10 percent of earners saw their annual income double since 1979 — incidentally, approximately the last year our dollars grew in purchasing power.

If you've got the sneaking suspicion that the economy is only bouncing back for the people at the top, you're not alone. That doesn't mean you should stop striving; definitely do everything you can to ensure your professional and financial future. But shouldering individual responsibility for circumstances that are systemic in nature isn't going to get us very far. If you're feeling strongly about that, it's worth bothering your elected representatives about changing the rules of the game.