Why Occupy? What Grievances are Driving the Movement?

I know I’m not unique in having had students, friends, and family ask questions about the Occupy movement over the past few months. And by far the most common question I get is, “what do they want/why are they angry?” And the answer, as it is so often, is a complex one. But new economic data is starting to fill in this picture of ‘why’ and ‘what’ by showing, as Michael Mandel does, that many of the participants of the Occupy protests, young adults who are either still in school or recently graduated, are driven by the simple fact that their prospects are dwindling.

Their belief that a college education was the gateway to a well-paying job and financial stability has been replaced by decreasing wages and increasing debt burdens. We know, via information collected by observers and participants, like Professor Cordero-Guzman at CUNY Baruch and pollster Douglas Schoen, that this is a well-educated group, yet also a group that sees itself as underemployed, and, according to the census information presented above, making substantially less than their peers ten years prior. All of which makes for a strong basis for collective grievances and incentive to mobilize.


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