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2012 December 19 Wednesday
The Rise Of Homeless Young Adults

Susan Saulny, who covers youth for the New York Times, has an interesting piece on young adults who can't make enough money to pay the rent. Click thru and see the video of her interviewing mostly guys who are living on the streets or in shelters in Seattle.

SEATTLE — Duane Taylor was studying the humanities in community college and living in his own place when he lost his job in a round of layoffs. Then he found, and lost, a second job. And a third.

What would be a useful task for some psychometricians and other social scientists: Measure the IQs, do blood tests for drugs and nutrients, and otherwise assess these youthful homeless to figure out quantitatively what is going on. Are these kids at 90 IQ? Or bizarrely at 110? Does depression and resulting lethargy make them have too low productivity in jobs? Or is the labor market really that bad?

Now, with what he calls “lowered standards” and a tenuous new position at a Jack in the Box restaurant, Mr. Taylor, 24, does not make enough to rent an apartment or share one. He sleeps on a mat in a homeless shelter, except when his sister lets him crash on her couch.

Duane do not study humanities. If you had gone for accounting you wouldn't need to work at Jack In The Box. Accounting. That's the ticket. Or computer administration. Or anything else that companies actually want to pay you to do. Hey, if you are smart enough then learn some math. Learn software development. Learn anything that puts your hourly rate at least twice the minimum wage. And then work long hours and save. Avoid living on the streets.

Hey readers: What should a teenager of average or below average intelligence learn to avoid living on the streets? Got some good ideas? How can America's youth respond to the outsourcing, automation, and high natural resource costs that are ripping up demand for low skilled workers? This is the sort of question educational debates should be centered around. How to make kids useful enough that they can avoid homelessness?

The economic interests of colleges and college professors stand in the way of cutting youthful homelessness. Most colleges want to teach lots of economically useless courses and charge high prices. Never mind the growing competition from China, India, and assorted other developing countries. Never mind the massive decline in manufacturing employment. They offer no solution except the mythology that since more educated people make more money that any major works to boost your future. The colleges ignore a big underlying cause for higher performance of the more highly educated: higher intelligence.

The colleges have managed to convince gullible voters that the US federal government should loan money to naive youth to spend on overpriced tuition in low value majors. The kids pile on debt and leave school with little in the way of useful skills. Meanwhile, American youth are competing with millions of Chinese youth who are willing to study science, engineering, software development, and math.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 December 19 09:13 PM 


Comments
Bill said at December 20, 2012 1:35 AM:

"What would be a useful task for some psychometricians and other social scientists: Measure the IQs, do blood tests for drugs and nutrients, and otherwise assess these youthful homeless to figure out quantitatively what is going on. Are these kids at 90 IQ? Or bizarrely at 110? Does depression and resulting lethargy make them have too low productivity in jobs? Or is the labor market really that bad?"

Wouldn't you have to group these homeless young people with young people that have to live with their parents? Neither of them are able to independently afford rent.

The number of men between the ages of 25-34 living at home is around 20%, and the number of women between 25-34 living at home is around 10%:

https://secure.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/05/adults-living-with-parents_n_1077067.html

So the number of relatively young men who can't independently afford rent (i.e. homeless plus living w/ parents) is greater than 20%, and the same number for relatively young women is greater than 10%.

I don't think these numbers suggest drug or nutrient or depression issues. And men are more intelligent and more productive than women, so I don't think it's an IQ or productivity issue either.

Bogwraith said at December 20, 2012 2:32 AM:

The labor market is brutal.

I completed a BS in biotech for my undergraduate degree and worked as a molecular bio lab tech for 2 years.

Then I made the supreme mistake of my life so far.....I embarked upon a PhD program in Cell and Molecular Biology thinking that it would lead to a high profile job in the Biotech industry.

I started the program with about 25 other students in the fall of 2005.

By 2010 over half of my fellow students had already dropped out and not a single one had graduated at by that point.

Thats right, a 5 year graduation rate of 0% for the program I was in.

A small number have since graduated, and a few are still there going into their 8th year in the program.

Despite the fact that I had a first author paper in Science, the most prestigious scientific journal in the world, I was told that I still done insufficient original research to graduate.
After a bitter dispute with my PhD advisor, I left the program without a degree in 2010.

In the 2 years since leaving the program, I have been unable to find a permanent job in my field and have been working odd/temporary jobs.

I was reduced to living out of my car for a period of 2 months a year ago, bathing myself in a river that runs through a wooded area where I could get privacy.

Unfortunately my graduate school experience has made me nearly unemployable, I think.

Lacking the advanced degree, I have been trying to get another technician job but those are few in number.

During the interviews I've been on, I got the distinct impression from the hiring managers that they felt I was too experienced for the jobs I was interviewing for.

Another problem is that the jobs are geographically dispersed, and there is so much competition for jobs that you won't get looked at unless you live locally. I have resorted to making up addresses for jobs within 4 hours driving distance, but I cannot afford to travel longer distances for interviews that are not guaranteed to lead to a job.

I'm thinking of moving back in with my parents on the wrong side of 30 to perhaps apprentice as an electrician or another trade.

If undergraduate degrees are a waste of time, then graduate degrees a near-criminal scam.

Obviously going into a PhD program for the humanities or unmarketable scientific disciplines like Astronomy is extremely risky.

However in my youthful stupidity, I very naively thought that I would enjoy a successful career in the biotech industry and that my PhD experience would be rewarding and valuable.

I found that for the most part, graduate students are mostly exploited as a highly educated, low-paid, and disposable labor force with minimal concern for the students future career prospects. Even had I completed the PhD, I would still have difficulty getting an appropriate position given how the economy has blown up since I started graduate school back in 2005.

B.Alter said at December 20, 2012 5:38 AM:

There seems to be a lot of potential in the minimalist / voluntary simplicity lifestyle:

Teen Builds His Own Tiny Home So He Can Move Out Of His Parents' House.

Shipping Container Home for $4K --single mom makes it happen

Whenever I've lived extremely simply, my life satisfaction was basically exactly the same as when I've lived in luxurious living situations. (I just need fast internet access.)


Bogwraith, sorry that's happened. I think it's often smart for young people to live with their parents. It lets them focus on the long-term, instead of burning resources and attention on the short-term.

Black Death said at December 20, 2012 6:44 AM:

"What should a teenager of average or below average intelligence learn to avoid living on the streets?"

....

Good question, RP. Two areas come to mind - truck driving and energy extraction. I have a friend who works for a freight hauling company, and he says they are always looking for good drivers. Pay isn't too bad - $30-40,000 to start. The requirements? Age over 21, a commercial driver's license, no felony convictions, no DUI's and a clean drug screen. Some companies will train promising newcomers.

The energy field is growing and seems likely to do so for the future. And you don't need a degree in petroleum geology (although that certainly wouldn't hurt). There are jobs for electricians, carpenters, plumbers and heavy equipment operators.

But if you insist on studying the humanities, I guess you can look forward to Jack in the Box, McDonald's or Walmart.

Dan said at December 20, 2012 7:15 AM:

There is a substantial hurdle for employers to deal with such that a prospective employee must be valuable enough to not only cover their costs but a whole slew of other things. For example:

Employees must meet the threshold of:

1 - minimum wage, including locally higher levels
2 - benefits including now Obamacare
3 - cost of training
4 - need to hire a racially, sexually 'fair' way
5 - risk that they won't stick around long enough to be worth it for the boss
6 - risks when you let someone go (discrimination suit)
7 - managerial burden of taking on someone that may eeat up some of the boss's attention
8 - payroll taxes
9 - all that friggin paperwork
10 - occupational safety and working conditions

I have to note that Democrats are mostly or completely responsible for #'s 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10, i.e. 70% of the hiring burden.

Is it any wonder that bosses want to automate?

Dan said at December 20, 2012 7:26 AM:

If you can swallow being around poor minorities all the time, which is a huge challenge, then you can work at McD's or a laundromat for $7 an hour for 40-55 hours a week and then make like $1400 a month. You can probably then get a room in the bad part of town and cover your other expenses. This is not a good life though for reasons including that a white person in a black neighborhood is not safe at all. (My dad volunteered in a program for the urban poor in DC and was mugged at least six times over the years including at gun point. He is a better man than me. But this was from volunteering - I can't imagine the cumulative odds if you as a white person build a life there.)

But then what the heck was the education for? Are you going to apply to work at McD's if you are college educated?

derek sutton said at December 20, 2012 7:52 AM:

What's wrong with learning a skilled trade, like plumbing? I've a prole brother in law that became a plumber, then opened his own plumbing business, makes comfortable six digits. If I could have it to do over again, that's what I'd do. Run my own carpentry or electrician business. Get to work with your hands, create value, be your own boss. Plus, everyone has a toilet or a light switch, so you're business is assured (to some extent).

Nuclear physicist said at December 20, 2012 11:55 AM:

" unmarketable scientific disciplines like Astronomy is extremely risky."

Disagree with this. A lot of the guys I know with PhDs in astronomy do very well in private industry.
The instrumentation guys build Real Stuff and have no trouble transitioning to industry. A lot of others have strong statistical analysis skills that
make them marketable for data mining jobs & other programming careers.

bbartlog said at December 20, 2012 12:10 PM:

Trouble finding an affordable place to stay? Why the hell are you in Seattle, then? It's like learning that some people are on the streets because they can't afford to rent a place in freaking Zurich or something. Now, of course these dudes are likely in Seattle because it's a hell of a nice place in many ways - but don't come crying to me about your life choices, here. This isn't 1970s China - you can move to some other city. Or you can even be homeless and just roll with that choice. I was homeless for three months in the 1980s (could have moved back with my parents, didn't care to), and it sucked, but I didn't whine about it.

Jake said at December 20, 2012 8:57 PM:

bbartlog,

All the jobs are in cities. Rural areas and small towns have been depopulated and have decayed. More importantly, all the young women are in cities. According to Bill's data above, more young women are able to independently afford rent than young men, and those young women aren't living on farms.

Randall Parker said at December 20, 2012 9:48 PM:

Bogwraith,

Sorry to hear. What a tale of woe. My advice: engineering. Science is charity work. A friend I used to study bio with as an undergrad went into science because he came from a wealthy family and he had money independent of his research work. He was blunt with me as undergrads when he told me I couldn't afford to become a scientist because my background is too prole. So I went into software. Going back in a time machine I would have gone into tech by going to college summer course after every high school year and dropped out of high school to go full time in college to get a degree when I was 19. Then I would have gone to Silicon Valley. That's where the action is at.

Dan,

Your father's mistake was "in DC". If you are going to be poor be poor around safe poor people or even be poor in an upper class area.

bbartlog,

Speaking as someone who lived in Santa Barbara for a long time, only to move to eventually a similarly expensive place, Seattle expensive? Really? What's a 1 bedroom apartment cost? Looking on Craigslist Seattle looks pretty cheap to me. A 1 bedroom for less than $700. 2 bedrooms even. I pay more than twice. A couple of Mickey D workers could split the rent in a town near Seattle and live high on the hog.

Seattle: cheap to me. Or at least its suburbs are cheap.

Nuclear physicist,

Physicists can make it in private industry because they are smart and know math. I've worked with lots of Ph.D. physicists in software. High IQ people with math chops can learn software.

Jake,

I say live near the babes. Work with them too. Otherwise you miss the whol benefit of womens' liberation. Roy Baumeister has got it figured out.

Randall Parker said at December 20, 2012 10:00 PM:

B.Alter,

I certainly am for a lower living standard. I drive an old car. I live in less fancy digs than I can afford (though still expensive due to living close to where I work). I save over half my income. People should live beneath their means for sure.

Black Death,

If I was in the lower half on IQ I'd go work in the North Dakota oil fields or in a service industry that serves them near the fields. Go to where the unemployment level is very low.

derek sutton,

The guy making 6 figures is an outlier who is probably pretty smart, astute, and good at handling people and money. Dimmer bulbs can't do that even if they manage to learn plumbing.

We need skill sets for the dimmer bulbs to learn.

DCRP said at December 22, 2012 1:17 PM:

"Hey readers: What should a teenager of average or below average intelligence learn to avoid living on the streets? Got some good ideas? How can America's youth respond to the outsourcing, automation, and high natural resource costs that are ripping up demand for low skilled workers? This is the sort of question educational debates should be centered around. How to make kids useful enough that they can avoid homelessness?"

There are several tells that Duane was not a good employee. LOsing 3 jobs in a row isn't normal, neither is being the last hired/first fired everytime. Your average 20 something wants to screw-around in JC for 4 years, get high the rest of his 20s and then wonders why he's in this situation.

derek has the right idea, and my brother is actually in this situation: learn a trade, learn handyman skills, work hard at a dirty job until you get enough experience to hire your own crew and be the guy doing the estimates. Pipe fitters make $60/hr right now and hardly any of them are under 40. I hired a white roofer to do my house and he and his buddies are all approaching 50. All of them make good money.

The main problem kids have is that they don't want to work.

Randall Parker said at December 22, 2012 3:43 PM:

DCRP,

I get that Duane is not great human capital. But he represents a substantial fraction of the population. Given that we aren't going to let kids like him starve to death what should we do with them. The bright, entrepreneurial, motivated self-starters will rise up. Not worrying about them. But what about the average and below average?

Randall Parker said at December 22, 2012 3:49 PM:

Bogwraith,

You could get a job doing long haul truck driving to build up some savings. Then move to Silicon Valley and try to get a bottom level job in tech support in a company that does software development. Work around bright minds that are paid well. Then start learning. You are smart enough. You can do it.

wow said at January 8, 2013 3:25 PM:

"Men are more intelligent and more productive than women"? "If you can swallow being around poor minorities..."? Really, folks?? Class it up, and actually think about what you are saying before making untrue, misogynistic, or racist statements.


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