Though there are a wide variety of important issues being discussed over a year ahead of the 2016 presidential elections, here are the questions that have been most prominent for millennials and young women in particular.
1. Student Debt Reform
Those who are grouped into Gen Y are afraid to live in a world where they won’t be able to put their own children through college due to exponentially increasing tuition rates that lead to excessive student debt. With unattainable tuition rates, aspiring college students are faced with roadblocks on their path to achieving careers and lives they'd want for themselves.
Given that millennials are the products of our economic recession, they tend to feel the pressure of falling employment rates. They are instilled with the idea that the only way to ensure a prosperous career is first to attend a prestigious university, which results in a massive amount of student debt post graduation.
Certain colleges have tested out plans to prevent debt, but most of the plans limit the student's career choices, awarding those who go into public service jobs or lower paying jobs. Obama created an income-based repayment system in which the plan caps the student loan payments at 15 percent of their current income. This is great for those with a lower entry level wage. However, those who do receive a higher paying job will pay more in loan payments than those who don’t.
It’s crucial that the federal government acts on this issue and finds a way to decrease the student loan crisis while encompassing all fields of study. All students deserve the right to feel financially stable without the pressures of increasing student debt and stagnant personal income.
2016 candidates who own this issue: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Martin O’ Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Marco Rubio.
2. Equal Pay for Equal Work
"You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns... That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.Women deserve equal pay for equal work." - Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union
The movement started in the 1950s when women realized their salary was lower than a man’s of equal position, enforcing the fight for equal pay. Ever since, minorities have fought for pay that will reflect their work and not their gender, sexuality, or race.
We have come a long way, but there are still battles to be won. While we have The Equal Pay Act of 1963 that says, by law, men and women must be paid equally for equal work and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that makes wage discrimination illegal, these laws have been a challenge to enforce.
According to a 2010 US Census, full-time working men earned a median salary of $47,715, compared to full-time working women who earned a median salary of $36,931. That is 77 percent of what men make, meaning for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents.
Applying race to the equation increases the wage gap even further. African American women earn 60 cents on the dollar, and Latin women earn 55 cents on the dollar.
For young women, equal pay does not mean taking down men and stripping them of their jobs and income, as it is so perceived, but instead it offers a workplace that tells its employees that everyone will receive equal opportunity no matter their identifiers.
The main reason behind unequal salaries is the secrecy around compensation data. How do we know we are being underpaid if we don’t know what our colleagues of equal work are making? According to a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 60 percent of private sector employees work in an environment that frowns upon an open salary information discussion.
This is why it’s important for 2016 candidates to push for salary transparency as well as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will make it much more difficult for businesses to implement unequal pay.
2016 candidate who own this issue: Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton.
3. Health Care
Health care is a highly stressed election issue that includes female-focused topics such as access to reproductive rights, more funding for cancer screenings, and access to organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide reproductive and maternal health services.
Candidates are acknowledging a generation that lives on immediacy and technology and would like to see their health care take that route as well.
Lengthy processes to learn more about their health care options or even get a doctor appointment leaves the younger generations discouraged, minimizing their desire for regular physician visits. Young adults between 18 and 34 are the most likely not to go for checkups, wellness visits, and screenings, and 93 percent avoided scheduling doctors visits, according to a survey by ZocDoc, an online medical care scheduling service. Due to this young adults end up in urgent care more than any other age group other than the elderly. Instead of primary care, they opt for emergency care when a health issue arises.
Before the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, many young adults could afford health coverage. This has improved since the implementation of the Act, but still needs some add covered services like preventative care.
The Act continues to be hotly debated among the parties and has evoked outrage over its substantial addition to the deficit. Tax credits that lower the rates of health care coverage help millennials most of all because they are the one’s who can reap the most benefits, being fresh out of school and entering into low-income entry level positions.
Organizations like Young Invincibles are a product of health care neglect in younger generations and work to provide them information regarding insurance options. The 2016 presidential candidates could take some notes from these organizations.
2016 candidates who stress this issue: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.
4. Gun Laws
It’s hard to accept, but millennials have grown up with acts of terror such as school shootings and have reacted to them in the only way they feel reachable— by pushing for stricter gun laws.
The saying “guns don’t kill people; people kill people" makes sense in common terms. However, one of the only resources in which Gen Y feels it has control over these situations is through law enforcement, such as limiting access to guns through plans like stricter background checks.
Millennials have to try their hardest to gain control in acts that are so out of our control and have asked for the government to react firmer gun laws. Younger generations urge the federal government to make noise for these shooters to hear.
2016 candidates who own stress this issue: Martin O’Malley, George Pataki, and Hillary Clinton.
5. Job Creation
Millennials have realized that as employment rates rise and fall, they need to find other venues or resources for employment. The traditional 9-5 corporate job is no longer the one and true route to career success.
The younger generation is consistently reminded of the competitive nature of today's job market and is doing everything in their power to differentiate themselves from the crowd of incoming graduates, mostly by building impressive resume's, personal presentations, and LinkedIn profiles. However, they also can't deny the all-important factor of networking that seems to be giving job opportunities only to those applicants "who know somebody who knows somebody." Sadly, this has created a marketplace that has become very reliant on the status and less on personal achievements.
Nearly 14 percent of recent graduates are still unemployed, according to a Generation Opportunity study. Yet, Millennials have reacted to the unnerving job market by seeking alternatives, specifically by creating jobs for themselves— taking the negative and turning it into something positive.
This is why many members of Gen Y have become their bosses, creating startups, apps, inventions, blogs, and freelance opportunities to name a few. According to The Harstad Strategic Research, Inc.'s survey, 78 percent of young adults voted for more government involvement in creating jobs.
Many Democratic candidates have proposed plans such as creating more infrastructure projects to generate jobs and offering more job training.
2016 candidates who own this issue: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, and Marco Rubio.
According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, millennials are more burdened by financial hardships than previous generations being that they are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income. So it only makes sense that the majority of the most important issues for young women are those of economic stance.
What candidates need to realize is that majority of millennials desire more government involvement, assuming that on these issues of importance they have no way to execute change without the help of the federal government to implement reforms. They can’t introduce bills or plans to help student debt, job creation, health care, gun laws or equal pay.
But they can surely tweet, share, and make their issues go viral until something does happen.