Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Are Those Born in the 1980s a "Lost Generation"?

Born in the 1980s? Then you belong to what could be a "lost generation." This is not a tabloid headline, but the considered opinion of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In an examination of trends in household wealth, fed researchers determined which households had recovered from the Great Recession and which had not.

For the analysis, the researchers estimated typical life cycle wealth trajectories using the 1989 through 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. They then compared actual wealth to expected wealth for household heads born in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Two stories emerged, and only one had a happy ending.

  • Here's the story with the happy ending: By 2016, the net worth of older Americans (born in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s) had recovered from the Great Recession. 
  • Here's the other story: By 2016, the net worth of younger adults (born in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s) had not recovered from the Great Recession. Those born in the 1960s were still 11 percent short of their expected net worth in 2016. Those born in the 1970s were 18 percent short. Those born in the 1980s were even worse off. Their net worth was 34 percent short of what it should have been based on the lifecycle wealth trajectory of earlier generations.

Housing and mortgage debt explain the wealth shortfall for the 1960s and 1970s cohorts. These age groups bought homes during the housing bubble and lost equity when the bubble collapsed. Few in the 1980s cohort were homeowners during the housing bubble, so the shortfall is caused by other types of debt—student loans, auto loans, and credit card debt, say the researchers. There is still hope for those born in the 1980s, however, because of their high educational attainment and the many years of catch-up available to them. But, the feds conclude, "the 1980s cohort is at greatest risk of becoming a 'lost generation' for wealth accumulation."

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, A Lost Generation? Long-Lasting Wealth Impacts of the Great Recession on Young Families

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