The U.S. economy may be on the mend, but not for teenagers. A new report found that 80 percent of those ages 13 to 17 are worried about finding a job, and more than half are concerned they will end worse off economically than their parents.
The study, conducted by H&R Block Dollars & Sense, a program designed to increase the financial fitness of American teens, found that while an amazing 97 percent want to go to college, more than three-quarters are nervous about taking on student loans. They have good reason to be concerned. From 2008 to 2012, debt at graduation increased an average of 6 percent each year, rising to an average of $27,000 per borrower.
Employment among this age group was hit especially hard by the financial crisis and has yet to see any significant recovery. According to the Department of Labor, in 2002 40 percent of those between the ages of 16 and 19 had a job. As of February of this year, that had shrunk to just 21 percent.
Meanwhile, the 58 percent of teens who believe they will be worse off economically than their parents have reason to be concerned. According the Census Bureau, median household income fell for the fifth straight year in 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available) to $51,017. Adjusted for inflation, that's the lowest it has been since 1995, before all but the oldest of teens were born.
The report also found that the cost of college is now the chief determining factor when deciding what school to attend. More than 40 percent of 17-year-olds say cost will play the biggest part in deciding where to go, ahead of criteria such as an institution's academic ranking and prestige (21 percent), location (16 percent), or status as the family alma mater (1 percent).
"Today's economic realities are bringing about real financial pressure and stress at a younger age," Kathy Collins chief marketing officer of H&R Block, said in a statement.