State of paralysis - RSA report - RSA

State of paralysis


  • Picture of Toby Murray
    Toby Murray
    Former Senior Policy Researcher
  • Picture of Josh Priest
    Josh Priest
    Former Associate Researcher
  • Picture of Amy Gandon
    Amy Gandon
    Head of Policy and Participation (Family leave)
  • Picture of Natalie Lai
    Natalie Lai
    Former Senior Quantitative Researcher
  • Picture of Jolyon Miles-Wilson
    Jolyon Miles-Wilson
    Senior Quantitative Researcher
  • Picture of Eirini Zormpa
    Eirini Zormpa
    Quantitative Researcher
  • Picture of Kim Bohling
    Director of Research and Learning

State of paralysis focuses on young people’s (16-24-year-olds) economic security and what it means for their health and wellbeing.

We define economic security as ‘the degree of confidence a person can have in maintaining a decent quality of life, now and in the future, given their economic and financial circumstances’. Consequently, the concept is distinct from related concepts such as income, poverty, and employment status, as it includes the subjective experience of one’s economic reality, which in turn involves other facets such as one’s ability to cope – both materially and psychologically – with financial risk and unforeseen economic challenges.

Based on our conversations with young people, and a review of existing research in the field, we propose some principles to underlie policy for young people.

  1. Make young people’s economic security a national priority, for the sake of both those young people and that of the UK as a whole.
  2. Recognise, and research, young adults as a distinct category. This report has shown that young people often face the same costs as adults, yet do not have the ability to respond to these challenges as adults, through income or experience. More and better data is also needed to understand this age group and its experiences
  3. Engage with young people when developing policy. Until more young people are in policymaking positions, more should be done to engage them in development of policy to understand how changes may impact this demographic.
  4. Adapt to new ‘non-linear’ patterns of education and employment. Old policy norms about a singular, permanent transition to independence must be replaced by an understanding of the non-linear path many young people now take.
  5. Take a decentralised approach. Finally, our fieldwork – and other research like it – highlights the importance of local context in mediating young people’s experiences of economic security, and the necessity of understanding and responding to local needs.

pdf 2 MB

As young people, you’re just stuck in this really strange limbo… you keep going in loops in terms of everything, like jobs and housing… there are more and more things that you have to think about. How am I going to live? How am I going to get here and do this?

Bradford, England Workshop participant

Young people's future health and economic security

Exploring how money worries impact health.

Read our State of paralysis report to hear what young people want from policy in the areas of:

  • education and employability
  • money
  • housing
  • transport
  • health

Download the State of paralysis report (2 MB).

Read a young people's financial health and economic security blog

  • Young people and the cost of living crisis


    Toby Murray Nik Gunn

    Young people are on the frontline of the cost-of-living crisis. Here we explore what the cost of living crisis means for the economic security of young people.

  • Young people's take on their economic security


    Toby Murray Hannah Webster

    The RSA’s research into young people’s economic security has found that 47% are financially precarious. Whilst this figure is stark, the ‘Age of Insecurity’ report shows the reality for young people is even starker.

  • 3 worrying trends in young people’s economic security


    Fran Landreth Strong

    With our research finding that around half of young people are financially precarious, Fran Landreth Strong examines concerning trends in young people’s economic security.

Read other RSA reports on the subject