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Gen Z is graduating into what could be the worst recession in decades — and it means they might earn less, get sicker, and even die younger

Gen Z
  • Gen Z is expected to graduate into a recession that could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Those who graduate into a recession face not only a stagnation in economic prosperity but also higher mortality rates, according to a January study.
  • It's yet another issue the youngest generation will need to contend with as the nation braces for an economic tailspin.
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Generation Z is preparing to follow in the footsteps of older millennials, and that's not a good thing. As the nation enters into an economic tailspin, the eldest members of Gen Z are set to graduate into a recession predicted to be worse than the one in 2008, which saw millennials reach peak unemployment levels of 20% to 30%, reported The Atlantic's Annie Lowrey.
The impact of graduating into a recession is generation-defining and causes a domino effect of negative consequences. For starters, those who graduate into a recession are forced to deal with higher than average rates of unemployment, lower starting salaries, and lower wages for years, Business Insider previously reported. These early career road bumps can cause a lengthy stagnation in socioeconomic prosperity lasting as long as 15 years.
This stunted economic growth in turn sets off a chain of other, even longer-term negative outcomes. An April 2019 Stanford study and a separate January 2020 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research each indicated that graduating into a recession could lead to dying sooner. Stanford called these "deaths of despair," noting they'd observed recession graduates had a roughly 6% increase in a generation's age-specific mortality rate.
"We find that cohorts coming of age during the deep recession of the early 1980s suffer increases in mortality that appear in their late 30s and further strengthen through age 50," the authors of the NBER study wrote. "We show these mortality impacts are driven by disease-related causes such as heart disease, lung cancer, and liver disease, as well as drug overdoses."
And the effect isn't purely economical: Both studies found that this cohort of recession graduates were less likely to be married, more likely to be divorced, and more likely to be childless.
As expected, many Gen Zers are afraid of what will come next.
"I'm a little worried about ending up like those who graduated around 2008," Maya Tribitt, a junior at the University of Southern California, previously told Business Insider. "A lot of the fear people my age have about getting jobs right out of college have come from the horror stories of people 10 years older than us. It's really scary to think that might be our new reality."
SEE ALSO: The coronavirus pandemic could completely derail the careers of Gen Z — and they might end up a lot like older millennials
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