Another winter, another massive snowstorm, another six-figure salaried pundit screaming “kids these days” because they would rather play videogames than shovel driveways for five dollars an hour. There are also facebook viral meme’s plastering my Facebook wall about how kids would rather sit inside the warm of their houses and play videogames instead of going out and hustling for poorly paid shoveling gigs.
Kevin Drum argues that the lack of snow shoveling by today’s youngsters is a matter of economics, mainly inflation. Drum’s argument is that wages for shoveling snow have basically remained flat but the costs of things kids like to spend money on have gone up. Adults are caught in a haze of nostalgia where coke and comic books cost a dime to a quarter and there were no 50 dollar video games. According to my friends with kids, there are also arguments about why babysitters cost so much so even relatively young thirty-somethings are not immune from a wall that prevents them from recognizing inflation. Though the rise of fancy babysitters might have something to do with the cost.
Drum’s argument strikes me as basically right. Kids know the cost of things they like and they realize that they are not going to get them for back-breaking labor at around $1.66 an hour (according to Drum’s calculations).
This raises other questions: Do adults not realize that inflation happen? Do adults have other reasons for wanting kids to do tough labor at low pay? Some thoughts:
1. People seem immune to recognizing inflation. I don’t know if this economic illiteracy, basic psychology, or both. This goes to more things than kids not wanting to shovel snow. I also have friends from high school who post nostalgically with updates like “Do you remember when tickets to concerts cost 12.50?” while posting a stub they found in a long-forgotten pocket from a concert in 1994.
2. Kids are not out shoveling snow because of different reasons: A friend of mine on facebook with young children said that the real reason kids don’t knock on doors is because of stranger danger. Now stranger danger probably has led to serious changes in having kids out and about without adult supervision but I doubt it is the whole story. It is also probably relative based on location. This goes back to #1 and a refusal to acknowledge inflation is a thing though.
3. Adults sometimes or often need to work at levels below what they think they are worth (accurately or not) and we are bitter people and want kids to learn this lesson early. This will be disguised in statements on hustle and drive and initiative.
4. This is a classic labor dispute writ small. Adults are the managers, kids are the employees. There is a fight over value and the kids have basically declared a general strike until things are changed.
5. A lot of adults might not be able to pay a market rate. Just like the well-paying entry level jobs go to a select few from the best schools, kids who live in tonier neighborhoods probably have a better chance of getting paid market rate. One friend from high school said that he was able to clear 1500 a winter shoveling snow during the 1990s because the going rate in our upper-middle class suburb was 50 dollars a house. This would seemingly be the equivalent of the kids who go to HYPS getting six-figure jobs at 22 or 25, while almost everyone else gets far from it.
6. Whatever else you can think of!
There are is probably not going to be a lot of consensus on this debate. Adults are going to insist on kids lacking drive and fewer kids will probably shovel in the future. I am just largely amused that kids seem more economically literate than adults and more willing to refuse work for better pay.