A perfect storm of economic forces has caused the net worth of of people under 35 to fall by 68 percent between 1984 and 2009 according to the Pew Research Center. It's a bitter pill to swallow for the young and depraved given that the nation's olds (people 65 or older) saw a net worth increase of 42 percent in the same period. So what's chipping away at the pocketbooks of the nation's disgruntled youth? The contributing factors:
College loans Tuition costs are hammering the youngins. A study last month by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center shows that earning a diploma comes with an average of almost $23,000 in debt. "The average cost of tuition and fees at four year institutions jumped to 8.3 percent this year. That’s more than twice the rate of inflation. For many young people that translates into bigger loans and more debt at a time when it's hard to find a job after graduation." CNN Money notes that "While those college credentials could lead to income gains for many young people down the road, surging tuition costs are also leaving them burdened by more student loans than prior generations."
The housing crisis The collapse of the housing market means many homeowners under 35 have negative equity on their homes. As Danielle Kurtzleben at US News & Worlds Report notes, "This contributes to high debt levels and makes their home ownership situations, as America's newest homeowners, particularly precarious." Additionally, boomers were lucky when it comes to timing. "Most purchased their present homes at 'pre-bubble prices' before 1986, according to the 2009 American Housing survey, and 65% have paid off their mortgage, a feat young American families can only dream about," writes Business Insider.
Demographic shifts In other cases, the changing makeup of America's youth have an effect on net worth comparisons. "Today’s young adults are more likely to be minorities and more likely to be single parents, characteristics often linked with lower net worth," writes Mark Trumbull at The Christian Science Monitor.
The job market One thing's abundantly clear: the high unemployment rate has made it difficult for people under 35 to build wealth. "With the unemployment rate currently at 9 percent, the weak labor market is a key reason for more young people returning to the nest," reports Kathryn Tuggle at Fox Business. Part of this may be psychological. "Fear over the state of the economy may have more to do with a child’s return home than their inability to get a job, according to Dr. Travis Heath, a psychologist at the Metropolitan State College of Denver."
Entitlement focus One big reason older folks are living easier than youth is the way government distributes wealth to older people through entitlements. "Boomers, on the other hand, have the advantage of inflation-indexed Social Security, their #1 income stream," writes Jill Krasny at Business Insider. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey adds "We have built our system to directly transfer wealth from younger adults to older adults, especially retirees, a process that has only accelerated in the past 25 years with expansions of Medicare and lowering retirement ages in Social Security."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.