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The State of Economic Equity: Challenges and Opportunities for Advancing Economic Security among U.S. Young Adults

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The State of Economic Equity: Challenges and Opportunities for Advancing Economic Security among U.S. Young Adults

March 26, 2024

Each year, the St. Louis Fed’s Institute for Economic Equity examines the nation’s current economic outlook through an equity lens. This year, our analysis focuses on U.S. young adults (ages 18 to 24). This group has experienced what amounts to two distinct economies relatively early in their lives, one disrupted by a public health emergency and a recession and the other characterized by high inflation and the tightest labor market since World War II.

Recessions raise the risk of weaker financial outcomes, both in the near term and over a lifetime. However, the tight labor market that the U.S. has experienced since early 2022 has provided young adults with economic opportunity. This may offset the COVID-19 pandemic’s adverse economic effects and offer young adults a degree of financial security early in their working lives.

Our focus on young adults is also born of concerns expressed by community stakeholders deeply knowledgeable about workforce development challenges and opportunities in our region. In 2023, the St. Louis Fed’s Community Development team conducted 16 roundtable discussions in communities across the Federal Reserve’s Eighth District.1 During these conversations, stakeholders repeatedly shared concerns about the structural hurdles that hinder young adults from participating in and benefiting from today’s economy.