President Obama is launching a new push Friday to reach out to millennials, the first of several core Democratic constituencies he will try to mobilize in the run-up to next month’s midterm elections.
The president will visit a tech incubator in Los Angeles to tout some of his policies that have had the most direct impact on the generation of Americans born between 1978 and 1997, such as the Affordable Care Act and reforms in the student loan program.
A senior White House official, who asked not to be identified in order to talk in advance of Thursday’s event, said Obama would focus on some specific demographic groups, including not just millennials but women, African Americans and Latinos, “making the positive case for progress made” under his tenure as well as pointing out that “many of the Republican positions run contrary to the best interests of this general population.”
Late Wednesday the White House Council on Economic Advisers issued a report highlighting both the progress the generation has made compared to previous ones — including a narrower wage gap between men and women — and the challenges it still faces in the wake of the recent recession.
Since many of them began seeking work during the recession, millennials still face a higher unemployment rate, averaging 8.7 percent, than other age groups in the overall U.S. population. But this cohort added 1 million jobs over the past year, according to the CEA report, with their unemployment rate falling more than any time since early 1980s.
“If you came of age during the recession and couldn’t get a job, that has a lasting negative impact on your wages,” said another senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “That’s the challenge you need to overcome in this generation.”
But the report notes that millennials are better educated — with women now outpacing men in obtaining college and graduate degrees — providing them with an opportunity to make up for that setback over time. The unemployment rate for 18- to 34-year-olds with a college degree in 2013 was 3.7 percent, compared to 13.5 percent for high-school dropouts of the same age.
Few administration policies have had as direct an impact on this generation as the provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. From the time the measure took effect in 2010 through the first quarter of 2014, according to the report, the uninsurance rate among Americans between the ages of 19 to 25 fell by 13.2 percentage points, a 40 percent decline that ensures millennials are now much more likely to be insured than other generations were during their young adult years.
While the report focuses on both the economic and demographic makeup of the millennial generatiion — including the fact that roughly 15 percent of them are foreign-born, a statistic that resembles how the American population looked like in the 1920s — it also captures some of their lifestyle choices.
A greater portion of millennials, who tend to fight less with their parents than those baby bloomers fought with their own parents, said it was “quite or extremely important” to live close to friends and family than past generations.