The fallout of this recession on young people just keeps coming. Jump over to Transitions2Adulthood, where I posted a blog on the stark and growing wealth gap between young adults and older Americans. It should give you pause.
What’s so disturbing is how much the gap in net worth has widened over the years. While the median net worth of a household over age 65 grew 42% since 1984, for households under age 35, net worth shrank fully 68%. Stunning. As I wrote months ago, we must rethink our policies and support young people more as they maneuver these rocky waters.
Some of you out there who have lived through recessions before might pshaw at the prospect that young adults need support. After all, we survived past recessions without any help. Why do they need support? But the numbers are clear. Trends underway long before the recession– rising college costs, declining wages, eroding benefits, growing inequality– have left us all on shakier ground. A recession as deep and prolonged as this is only piling on risk and hardship, most profoundly for those just starting out in the workforce.
In other words, this one is different because we’re different. Our economy is a much higher-stakes game, and young people relative to retirees have been losing ground. The question is, are the odds of catching up later, in one’s 30s and 40s, shrinking too? The college payoff is declining as wages flatten and college costs rise. Housing values are in the toilet. The things that we count on, in other words, to raise net worth are eroding. Will this gap persist as a result? Only time will tell. Can we as a country afford to wait and see how it turns out? I don’t think so.