This summer will scar young Americans for life

Pretty much anywhere you look, the stuff young people do has disappeared—language programs, study abroad, volunteering, even babysitting and dog walking. Sasha Tucker, a high-school student in New York City, was planning on studying Ancient Greek and joining a summer journalism program in the coming months. Instead, she said, she’s doing some hiking, and a lot of figuring out what to do. “Everyone is very worried about how boring it’s going to be,” she said. “We’ve already been cooped up inside with our parents for over two months now.”

About one in 10 members of the 16-to-24 population were not participating in education, formal employment, or training— a group known in social-science shorthand as NEETs—before the coronavirus pandemic. Now … who knows? But many of the young people I interviewed said they did not know anyone in their cohort with formal plans for the next few months.

Summer-job losses don’t just mean kids losing pocket money, or college students having to stay in their parents’ basements for a few months longer. Not all teenagers get financial support from their family. Many 20-year-olds have children of their own. Because of the crisis, many young people are giving up altogether on going to college or starting a business. The pandemic recession has thus thrust Gen Z, as a cohort, into a deep state of financial precarity.