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Are millennials worse off than baby boomers? Cambridge University releases new study

A Cambridge University study sparked a new debate between baby boomers and millennials. At the crux of the study, are millennials worse off than baby boomers were at the same age?

The University’s study looked at three key metrics, housing and home ownership, marriage vs. living at home with parents, and money. That research confirmed there is a growing wealth gap between the groups.

KIRO 7 talked with both baby boomers and millennials who said the data confirms and validates what they’re experiencing. They, or someone close to them is struggling to either buy a home, or they’re not able to afford to move out and are forced to live with their parents.

A Gen Z’er was also asked and humbled everyone.

“When you hear the term baby boomer, what comes to mind,” we asked.

“Old, crotchety, grumpy,” said Alyx Mentzer.

When asked what she thinks of when she hears millennial she said, “hipstery, trying to be young and cool.”

Baby boomers and millennials are generational groups often at odds, who many think have different priorities.

“It’s [baby boomers] the generation where that was the goal. You were to get a house, have a family, good job,” said Sandra Wood, who is a Baby Boomer born in 1954.

David Gillette, a millennial said, “Everyone kind of looks at millennials as immature.”

That Cambridge study confirms some of what Gillette and Wood already know. Baby boomers had homes and families at higher rates earlier in life. By the time they turned 35, 62% of Baby Boomers owned homes compared to 49% of millennials. When it comes to marriage and families, 27% of baby boomers checked those boxes compared to 13% of Millennials.

Wood said she’s seeing millennials struggle with this firsthand.

“Now I have my 30-year-old grandson living with me and he’s got a great job and he would like to move out but he can’t right now. He can’t afford to,” she said.

The wealth distribution is part of why millennials are struggling. The Federal Reserve’s Q2 2023 numbers show as of September, baby boomers owned 52.8% of all wealth in the U.S. and millennials owned just 5.7%.

For baby boomers that wealth breaks down to:

  • $19.34TRIL in real estate.
  • $2.95TRIL in consumer durable goods.
  • $21.21TRIL in corporate equities and mutual fund shares.
  • $16.47TRIL in pension and retirement funds.
  • $7.85TRIL in private businesses.
  • $14.43TRIL in private businesses.
  • $14.43TRIL in other assets.

For millennials, that breakdown shows:

  • $5.51TRIL in real estate.
  • $1.59TRIL in consumer durable goods.
  • $.91TRIL in corporate equities and mutual fund shares.
  • $2.67TRIL in pension and retirement funds.
  • $7.85TRIL in private businesses.
  • $1.49TRIL in private businesses.
  • $2.05TRIL in other assets.

That study also found that “working class careers like truck drivers or hairdressers, used to be able to buy a home and build a modest level of assets, but this is more difficult for the younger generation.”

We asked Wood what it was like to watch her grandson work day after day, doing what he’s supposed to do, but not being able to achieve what he wants to achieve.

“It breaks my heart. It’s just really hard. I know how he’s struggling. I feel bad for him, I feel very sad for people his age,” she said.

Gillette added, “It’s difficult. It is. Especially if you’re not really into a career or really high paying job you’re just doing minimum wage jobs.”

That study also shows that millennials with white-collar jobs are making more than their baby boomer counterparts, it’s the blue-collar sector where the wage gap is widening most. There are posed solutions like progressive wealth tax, policies like universal health insurance, and more security.