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Anette Eva Fasang

Research Findings

Are millennials worse off than baby boomers? That’s the wrong question.

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December 28, 2023

The question of whether Millennials are doing better or worse than previous generations remains a highly debated subject. Millennials are often positioned as the victims of changes in American society that have made employment and family life less stable, rendering them, according to some observers, “the first generation that is worse off than their parents”. A recent article challenged the “myth of the broke Millennial”, however, claiming that they are actually thriving.

Framing the question in this way is somewhat misleading. It suggests that there is a typical or average Millennial, who we can compare to the average Baby Boomer. Millennials are so different from one another, however, that it is not particularly meaningful to talk about the ‘average’ Millennial experience. There are some Millennials who are doing extremely well—think Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman—while others are struggling.

The Baby Boomers are similarly internally divided: those who went to university and found middle class jobs had very different experiences and life outcomes compared to those in working class occupations. Comparing generations in terms of their average economic outcomes overlooks the vast discrepancies within generations. Instead, we should ask which Millennials were better or worse off than previous generations.

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