WBUR’s Generation Stuck: The Struggling 20-Somethings


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AMP Agency’s ‘Generation Stuck’? Methodology

AMP Agency wanted to take a deeper look at the impact the economy has had on the perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes of recent college graduates. Primary research was conducted with a focus on understanding how the economy may be impacting their educational, vocational, financial and personal lives.

In order to gauge the impact on males and females, ages 22 to 29 who have at least some college education, AMP gathered information from a broader audience in order to compare results across different generations. In total, AMP gathered responses from 516, 18-49 year old males and females that live in the United States. The survey was fielded online in September of 2012. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 4.31 %.

Findings from this study contributed to Generation Stuck, a radio series and a blog produced by WBUR 90.9 FM, Boston’s NPR News Station, which highlighted the life experiences of 20-somethings in wake of the economic recession.

AMP Agency’s ‘Generation Stuck’? Key Findings

AMP Agency’s ‘Generation Stuck’? research took a look at males and females, ages 22 to 29 who have at least some college education, to understand how their lives have been impacted by the economic downturn. AMP looked at aspects of their educational, vocational, financial and personal lives in order to understand how their life experience are different from younger and older generations.

This research gained insight into topics across a broad range of topics. Key areas of interest were employment, education, debt & finance, spending, relationships, obtaining ‘the American Dream’? and the future. Below are key findings from each of the categories.

Overall, recent graduates are facing many short term financial challenges. They are not where they want to be in life, but they have the motivation and optimism to make their dreams come true. Their current spending may also be limited, but they have the goals of obtaining better, higher-paying jobs that will give them the lives (and spending limits!) they desire.


  • Key Finding: Over half of 22 to 29 year old respondents report that they are overeducated and overqualified (57% and 56%, respectively) for their current positions.
  • Implication: Historically, there has always been a sense of entitlement among younger generations. Despite the economic downturn, recent college graduates still feel that they are entitled to have higher paying or more powerful jobs than what they currently hold. Aspirations among the segment remain high, and that’s a good thing for employers!


  • Key Finding: The vast majority of 22 to 29 year old respondents believe that hard work (88%) and education (81%) lead to success.
  • Implication: Despite the challenges of obtaining a preferred job or earning the salary that they think they deserve, recent graduates are still proud of the hard work that they have put into themselves and their education. They remain optimistic on their views of themselves and what they may be able to achieve in the future.

Debt & Finance:

  • Key Finding: 78% of 22-29 year old respondents have student loan debt. Of those, 40% owe $40,000 or more. The majority feel ‘burdened’ and ‘overwhelmed’ by their debt (70% and 63%, respectfully).
  • Implication: Recent graduates will need to hone their financial responsibility skill set to avoid not only feeling worse about their debt, but also avoid ruining their credit at a young age. If many recent graduates end up hurting their credit, this could have negative future implications for the financial and housing markets.


  • Key Finding: They key areas where 22-29 year old respondents are spending less money are clothing (79%), dining out (79%), and entertainment (77%).
  • Implication: Many manufacturers and retailers have suffered from the economic downturn, but the impact will be felt hardest among those that target younger consumers. Younger consumers typically have high discretionary funds, and the research shows they are watching every penny as they try to make smarter financial decisions.


  • Key Finding: The economy has had an overall positive impact on 22 to 29 year old respondents’ relationships, with 40% citing a positive impact on their relationship with their parents, and 37% citing a positive impact on their relationship with friends and coworkers.
  • Implication: Recent graduates are living at home longer, as well as borrowing money or staying rent-free with friends and family. One benefit of this behavior is that they are growing closer to those people who are helping them through this financial crisis.

Obtaining ‘The American Dream’?:

  • Key Finding: 70% of 22-29 year old respondents┬ábelieve that they can attain the American Dream. 68% feel optimistic about their futures.
  • Implication: The economic crisis has had a major impact on the short term experiences of recent graduates, but their outlook on the future remains optimistic. They believe that their recent struggles will not hurt their ability to achieve their own definitions of achieving ‘The American Dream’? (typically defined as financial stability, the ability to raise a family comfortably, and living without debt).

The Future:

  • Key Finding: 80% of 22 to 29 year old respondents agree that they will make enough money for themselves in the future, and 51% feel that their economic situation will end up better than that of their parent or guardian.
  • Implication: Although unsure of when their economic situation will improve, recent graduates have a positive self-image and a positive outlook on their future. They feel that they will be able to achieve the type of financial independence they desire. They are willing to put forth the hard work and effort it takes to get to where they want to be.

The findings are based on 158 surveys conducted with 22-29 year old males and females. This subset was a part of a larger research initiative that gathered responses from 516, 18-49 year old males and females across the United States. Margin of error for the 22-29 year old segment is +/-7.8% and the margin of error for the entire study is +/-4.8%.

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