It makes sense that old people would have more money than young people, because they have been working and saving longer. But this wealth gap is massive by historical standards. In 1984, old people were a mere 10 times richer than young people. Not only have old people gotten richer since then, but the median net worth of households headed by young people has declined considerably.
Households headed by adults ages 35 and younger had a median net worth of $3,662 in 2009. That marks a 68% decline in wealth, compared to that same age group 25 years earlier.
Over the same time frame, households headed by adults ages 65 years and older, have seen just the opposite. Their wealth rose 42%, to a median of $170,494.
It gets worse, for young people: “37% of the young households held zero or negative net worth in 2009, up from 19% in 1984.”
The fact that this gap is getting worse helps explain why so many older Americans don’t get it, when the young people complain. The amount of debt young Americans take on today is way higher than it used to be, the opportunities for class mobility are shrinking, and the life choices that worked for earlier generations looking to join the middle or upper classes (college and homeownership) have largely become massive rip-offs.
…It is the primary argument of the austerity pushers (and their allies, the deficit hawks) that young people should give in and accept that “we” can’t afford to sustain the fairer society that older Americans enjoyed. That argument would be more convincing if the current Bad Times were affecting everyone equally, instead of simply the already young and poor…