Millennials and Gen Z Are Spreading the Virus, but Not Just by Partying

The younger generation has gotten a bad rap for ignoring pandemic precautions and driving coronavirus cases skyward, say economists and public policy experts.

While some millennials and Generation Z adults appear to have thrown caution to the wind, others are getting COVID-19 from just doing their jobs. The recession caused by the pandemic has forced them into service-oriented employment that puts them in direct contact with the public, increasing their risk of virus transmission.

The Pew Research Center defines millennials as those born after 1982 and Gen Z as people born after 1996.

There have been stories of COVID-19 parties where guests allegedly have tried to infect each other, but these headlines ignore the many young people working in low-income jobs that statistically increases their risk of getting the coronavirus, according to National Geographic.

“In the past few decades, we’ve seen a shift in the economy towards more service jobs,” said Sharon Sassler, a professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, who specializes in the activities of young adults. “Young people in those service jobs are now at greater risk of being exposed.”

Of the 22 million jobs lost since the pandemic, only 42% have been recovered, according to National Geographic, so very often young people are forced to take any employment they can get, even if it puts them at risk for contracting the coronavirus. While they may be blamed for spreading the transmission of the virus, they are also bearing the brunt of the recession which places them in potentially dangerous employment situations.

While young people have a lower mortality rate than older Americans, JAMA reports that one in five young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 who have been hospitalized by COVID-19 requires intensive care.

“Younger people are in the most precarious positions,” said economist Gray Kimbrough, according to National Geographic. “When they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance, but then they may have trouble getting the benefits that were supposed to be designed to catch them in situations like this. When that fails them, they are on their own.”

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