According to the study, of the 17 million working-class youth in the US – a figure that represents 53% of the population between the ages of 18 and 25 – 39% fit into the grouping under “gold collar,” with the rest being coined “blue collar”.
The study says that the defining characteristic of this new class of youth is its search for an identity, overcome most often in pop culture and status consumption. Some other characteristics of “gold collar” workers:
- work in new industries (service), and have no clear career path, but many options.
- are often new to the USA – recent immigrants or children of immigrants.
- determine status through high-end fashion, Starbucks, latest cell phones.
- put independent living on the backburner to avoid sacrificing consumption.
- aspire to upper middle class or celebrity occupations.
Meanwhile, ‘blue collar’ youth often:
- work in industries with union membership, often following a family tradition.
- reject status consumption
- resist social change
- stick to same friend groups, social pastimes and hangouts
- value having family/settling down
- have forefathers recognized for being “The Backbone of America” and credited with building the nation’s economic power
- value independence and are more likely to pay rent than live with their parents.
“Gold collar” workers spend on average $729 a month on discretionary items, while “blue collar” youth spend only $609 a month on such items.