Member Spotlight: Young Invincibles
By Perdita Henry
When people speak of Generations Y or Z (millennials 24-39 and centennials 5-24 respectively), it’s often in facetious tones. Words like entitled, social-media obsessed, and self-absorbed, tend to season the conversation. We’re—and I say we’re because TWHC staff is almost entirely made up of millennials—two generations that are often misrepresented and misunderstood.
Millennials and centennials have come of age during the evolution of the internet, streaming services, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, incessant school shootings, Black Lives Matter, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the rise of social media. Many of us are chronically underpaid and making ends meet with side hustles in a gig economy world, without benefits. We are dealing with crippling debt attached to our college degrees and struggling to recover from the great recession, only to face down a pandemic, another recession, and a very uncertain future.
Young Invincibles, a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for young adults, ensuring their perspective is heard, and that they are in the room where it happens, is determined to help bring the gen Z and Y reality into focus, so that changes can make a real difference in our lives.
“We believe fiercely in the role of young adult leadership throughout all aspects of our work, including research, policy analysis, event planning, and decision making,” Christina Long, Southern Policy and Advocacy Manager says. “In addition to the Young Advocates Program, we are further guided by our Texas Youth Advisory Board, a committee of young adult leaders who inform and strengthen our work. Everything we do is rooted in amplifying young adult voices.”
“Founded in 2009 by students during the passage of the ACA, Young Invincibles advocated for key components of the ACA that directly impacted young adults, such as staying on a parent’s health care plan until age 26,” Long says. “Now working in five regions including Texas, we are focused on policy change that lifts young adult voices on key issues including healthcare, higher education, student debt, and the workforce. Here in Texas, we dream of a future that modernizes higher education programs and healthcare to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s young adults.”
As we all prepare for the 87th legislative session here in Texas, what topics are Young Invincibles hoping to bring more attention to this time around?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, young Texans are navigating both a lack of access to healthcare and growing unemployment. We hope to call attention to just how critical it is for young adults to access affordable healthcare, employment opportunities, mental health counseling, and an affordable postsecondary education.
We also seek to voice the need for changes to student debt consumer protections to work toward an equitable economic future in our state, as young adults are experiencing crushing student loan debt and financial stress. Across all our work, we will call attention to racial and gender disparities impacting the future of young people, to advocate for programs and services that support young adults of color and close the racial wealth gap.
The term, young invincible, originally coined by the health insurance industry, became more known as the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) was introduced to the nation. The young invincible was integral to the success of the ACA exchange, but the demographic was often left out of policy conversations. How has Young Invincibles ensured that young people have a seat at the table?
It’s so important that policies are not just created for, but rather by young people themselves. Young Invincibles seeks to ensure that young Texans have access to critical information about the policies that impact them, and the tools to get involved to create change. For this reason, we run the Young Advocates Program, that provides young Texans an opportunity to learn about policy, advocacy, and community leadership. Participating in this program gives young Texans the chance to meet with legislators, develop and advocate for policy change, and engage other young adults on critical issues.
How can organizations engage the young invincibles in their own community?
Young adults care about a variety of topics. Even organizations that don't focus on young adult-specific issues can engage young adults as community members and stakeholders. It can be easy to reach young adults on social media as well as college campuses and recent alumni networks. Organizations can create opportunities for young people to engage in advocacy, learn more about key issues, and get involved. It’s also important for young people to be compensated for their time, so organizations should consider how they can engage young people and pay them for the value of their work, time, and insights.
What do people generally get wrong about millennials and Gen Z?
Young people are facing huge systemic financial barriers. Rents have skyrocketed, the cost of college is higher than ever, and securing a job was already tough prior to the pandemic. Starting salaries have not risen at the rate of cost of living or education, which makes economic stability for young people nearly impossible. The current pandemic exacerbated these issues, especially for young adults who are more likely to be graduating, looking for work, laid off, losing income, or working in a dangerous essential position.
There's also a misconception that young people are politically disengaged. Young people care deeply about their communities, their future, and their healthcare, and are passionate to get involved. For Young Invincibles' work, it's critical that we acknowledge these factors and that we listen to young people. Acknowledging these systemic factors and then seeking the voice of young people is critical.
Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?
Young adults have the highest uninsurance rate of any age group in Texas. Almost 30 percent of young Texans are uninsured. Therefore, it’s critical for young adult voices and leadership to be a part of policy changes that expand healthcare access – especially reproductive and women’s healthcare. We are thrilled to be members of TWHC because we’re passionate about ensuring that women’s healthcare is protected and expanded, and that young people have access to critical services before, during, and after pregnancy, including contraception and high-quality postnatal care.
What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to Young Invincibles?
An ideal future is one in which young people receive high quality, inclusive, and affordable healthcare. We believe that cost should never be a deterrent for young people seeking care, and inequities in the system need to be addressed. For example, with the high maternal mortality rate in Texas and the disparate impacts of maternal mortality on women of color, Texas must act.
Our ideal future is one in which policies are enacted that address health injustices and ensure that young people receive equitable coverage and care.