letters | As millennials make their way

‘Emerging adults,’ ever hopeful, can do without ridicule

Jennifer Graham’s diatribe on “A generation of idle trophy kids” (Op-ed, Nov. 4) starts out with the news that 6 million 16- to 24-year-olds are neither working nor in school, and her remedy is . . . ridicule! Yes, ridicule will surely get them up off the couch and into the labor market in the aftermath of the great recession.

For 20 years I have researched 18- to 29-year-olds, whom I call “emerging adults,” and I have yet to encounter the mythical species that Graham and her ilk seem to spy everywhere: the basement-dwelling oafs whose highest aspiration is to sponge off their parents as long as possible.

Like others who enjoy the pastime of ridiculing emerging adults, Graham’s aspersions are largely fact-free. In the Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults that I directed last year, only 16 percent said they receive regular support for living expenses from their parents, and three-fourths agreed that they would prefer to live independently of their parents, even if it means living on a tight budget.


Somehow, despite the hostility of Graham and many of their other elders — the generation that has bequeathed them a multitrillion-dollar debt, and not much else — today’s emerging adults remain hopeful. In the same Clark poll, nine out of 10 agreed with the statement “I am confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.” To overcome unmerited hostility and a torpid economic future, that’s optimism they will need.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett


The writer is a research professor in the psychology department at Clark.