class rage speaks
Ruminations on the personal experience of being poor and my journey toward being fully myself in spite of classism's silencing and setbacks. Here's to feeling a little less alone.
With the economy in the state it’s in, it’s clear that now is a difficult time, financially speaking, to be a young person in the United States. Unemployment is rampant, the job market is cutthroat, and higher education is ever more expensive, sending many people into substantial student-loan debt. I know very well how scary a situation this can be; I graduate with my master’s in a year, and even though both of my degrees are from top-tier schools, I’m still terrified that I won’t be able to find a job that allows me to pay off my loans, live from day to day, and make some kind of progress toward a state of greater financial security.
One statistic I’ve seen mentioned in discussions of this economic climate is that at present, 85% of college graduates will return to live with their parents. I’m not clear as to the methodology of this study, or what exactly it means- for how long? directly from college, or after some time? But I can definitely believe, from other information and my own experiences, that a fairly large percentage of young people are choosing to save money by living with their parents instead of paying for their own independent housing.
Thinking about this issue has required a switch in perspective for me. For a long time, I’ve thought of going back to live with one’s parents as a privilege, connected to the privileges of having parents who can afford to provide financial help and other kinds of support. It’s something that I don’t have to fall back on. There is simply no longer a place for me in my parent’s house, and they can’t afford to support me as well as all my younger siblings who are still at home. Their location, lack of Internet access, home conditions, and general environment would conspire to make it incredibly difficult for me to keep on top of the current fast-paced, highly competitive job market. Between that and the personal details of our relationship, it’s impossible for me to move back in with my parents.
But clearly, most people are looking at moving back in with one’s parents not as a privilege reserved for those of well-off parentage, but as the opposite: a marker of one’s own lack of money and financial security, a consequence of economic disadvantage that is personally and practically difficult to endure. It means giving up one’s personal space and autonomy- very important things- and running the risk of disapproval and teasing from peers, potential romantic partners, or the parents themselves. For a lot of people, it’s not something they want to do, it’s something they have to do in order to stay afloat in a bad economic situation, and it requires distinct sacrifices on their part.
Thinking about this issue is bringing up questions of interest to me about different experiences of poverty and how they work in relationship to each other- how one person’s experience of hardship can be another person’s longed-for privilege, while both are still experiences of financial disadvantage on a larger scale. What do you think?