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Inflation, rising home prices, other factors take toll on young adults in Nevada

The Involvement Fair is an opportunity for students to learn about UNLV Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), departments, and non-profit community organizations in the Las Vegas area. The Involvement Fair is also an opportunity for RSOs to meet new students, collaborate with other organizations, and network with partners in the community. Existing and prospective student organizations, university departments, and invited non-profit community organizations are welcome to participate. The Involvement Fair happens at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters on the first floor of the Student Union and surrounding outdoor areas. Every RSO and department is invited to participate and all UNLV students are encouraged to visit the event. September 1, 2021 (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)
Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services
UNLV Photo services
The University of Nevada Las Vegas campus

In the 1980s, a 20-year-old in Nevada could probably be thinking that pretty soon, they’d be able to afford a house, maybe get married, have kids, even a car. Is that pure fantasy today?

Saddled with massive college debt, having gone through the pandemic and facing industries where automation and artificial intelligence is doing the work — young adults are coming into a world that some say will be the most difficult in generations.

Or, as some executives may ask, are young people today simply not up to the task? Do they not like to work hard? Are they more entitled? Or, is the state they're in simply out of their control?

Professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Pamela Aronson, sides more with economic and societal factors as the culprits for young adults' struggle.

"People are affected in lasting ways by the era in which they come of age. We often hear about the children of the Great Depression, who are very miserly," said Aronson. "We have to really think about the era in which young adults are coming of age. They're really dramatically influenced by the chaos of the pandemic, the insecurity of the pandemic, and also its associated economic uncertainties," Aronson continued, "We don't really know yet how this is all going to play out, but we do see that there have been impacts. And the characteristics of young adults' worldviews, their opportunities, their resources, will all be shaped by this long shadow of the pandemic and possibly in lasting ways."

Speaking of influence and impact, Aronson's sociological focus is also on gender studies and feminism, which lead to her co-authoring the book "Gender Revolution: How Electoral Politics and #MeToo are Reshaping Everyday Life." Aronson thinks social movements really have the power to change the way we all behave and think, especially young people.

The "why" of all this young adult malaise is clearer now, but what about the perspectives of actual young adults in Nevada? What about the perspectives of young adults who are in the trenches, but also looking to make a difference in their respective communities?

One highly qualified young adult is Aimee Tram. She is a Youth Power Project member with Make the Road Nevada, a nonprofit organization advocating for Latino issues.

Tram also has extensive experience in racial justice activism, Asian-American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander advocacy, and is currently interning with Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.

Tram, 20, has a hefty burden of student loan debt.

"When I turned 18, I made decisions to go to a higher institution for education. I have $30,000 in debt under my name and I was 18 years old. And this is not a unique case. There are a lot of people like me out there," Tram said. "I've applied to so many scholarships, grants, I've worked two jobs, and I still have a family at home to take care of, so it's tough."

Even through all of that, she said she remains hopeful.

Tram said she wants to bring her experience in grassroots organizing to the tables of legislators, because she wants to make a difference in young adult communities. However, she also said Nevada isn't the best place to be if you're a politically-motivated young adult.

"I haven't seen very many things that are available to students that want to go into politics," Tram said. "Most of it is business related or hospitality. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is one of the best universities for hospitality and business ... places on the East Coast are amazing with liberal arts, and having those experiences outside of UNLV are really hard to get."

Another subsection of the young adult community who not only feel the economic pressures of the time, but can often go through significant mental hardship, is the LGBTQIA+ Community.

Percy Neavez, a youth resource specialist in charge of youth programming at The LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada, said this demographic has been more anxious than normal.

The main reason as of late?

At least 14 states across the U.S. have passed laws or policies that restrict gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone therapy for people under 18, and at least 18 other states are considering passing similar laws.

Nevada has one of the most LGBTQ-safe set of laws in the country, but that doesn't mean there's no fear for LGBTQ youth.

"How do the anti-LGBTQ laws getting proposed nationwide affect [us]? And it's the sense of, are we next?" said Neavez. "Thankfully, it's not happening here in Nevada, we aren't seeing anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans bills getting proposed, but all across the West Coast, the East Coast? It's happening everywhere and they are noticing and they feel like there's a target on their back."

Guests: Pamela Aronson, sociologist, University of Michigan-Dearborn; Aimee Tram, member, Youth Power Project, Make the Road Nevada; Percy Neavez, youth resource specialist, The LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada

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Christopher Alvarez is a news producer and podcast audio editor at Nevada Public Radio for the State of Nevada program, and has been with them for over a year.