Boston’s young adult challenge
The challenges facing young people in Greater Boston were laid out today, though not in a single story but rather in several.
The Globe has a front-page feature on the trials and tribulations of the region’s young adults, those aged 20 to 34, who now make up a larger share of Boston’s population (35 percent) than they do in any other major US city. While Boston used to lament the exodus of people in this demographic, who found it too difficult (i.e., expensive) to set down roots here, today’s story hints, but doesn’t really offer clear proof, that these young adults may be more inclined today to battle their way to a future in Boston.
The main story and an accompanying set of mini-profiles of half a dozen young people run through the litany of challenges facing young adults that are greatly magnified in Boston’s high-cost economy: heavy student debt, a slow jobs recovery, and crushing housing costs.
As important as the story is, its telling seemed decidedly incomplete. In a city where minority group members now make up a majority of the population, the piece focused entirely on white young adults and one native of Bangladesh, with nearly all of those profiled having landed here from elsewhere.
The plight of young people raised in and around Boston got short shrift, though they face the same challenges. Their cause, however, gets attention on the Globe editorial page, which urges Gov.-elect Charlie Baker to take up the agenda laid out through the Vision Project overseen by outgoing higher education commissioner Richard Freeland. It calls for something akin to the “grand bargain” at the core of the state’s 1993 K-12 education reform law. Its higher ed analogue would be a renewed commitment to state funding of public higher education in exchange for a sharper focus on graduation rates and outcomes at those institutions. A focus on degree completion along with sustained state funding that could alleviate some of the student debt burden would help public higher ed students — who overwhelmingly come from Massachusetts and intend to stay here — better cope with the challenges of living in such a high-cost region.
Similarly, whether long-troubled Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury can get on its feet, as WBUR explores today, is as vital to Boston’s future as figuring out a way to keep 31-year-old Kristin Mattera, whose story appears in the Globe feature, from leaving the region and returning home to Connecticut.
Attention should certainly be paid to retaining those young people who land here for college once they graduate and enter the workforce. But it’s equally, if not more, important to pay attention to the needs of young people born here, who will anchor the region’s next generation of young adults.
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