Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Net personal wealth by generation

Twice since the turn of the century, in 2006 and 2014, the GSS has asked respondents about personal net wealth (assets minus debt). The following graph shows wealth distributions by generational cohorts in roughly 2010, understanding that the "great recession" occurred in between the two survey years (n = 2,150):

Rather than confidently divining disaster in this, as it's beyond my understanding to say with certainty what, if anything, it presages, allow me to share a few reactions.

There aren't that many geriatrics living off of Social Security benefits. Fifteen percent of Silents are millionaires. The figure is half that among Boomers, less than one-third that half among Xers, and then there's Mark Zuckerberg and his waifu.

Half of millennials aren't worth anything.

Big deal. A look at the general situation of boomers in the mid-seventies, comparable to the life stage of millennials here, wouldn't have looked any better. In fact, it would've been worse! That's what a Boomer will tell you, anyway.

I grew up in a comfortably middle class household. My siblings and I were regaled every Christmas with the story of how my parents married after college with nothing but my dad's old pickup and $500 to their name, the entirety of which was subsequently spent on a month-long road trip through the central, mountain, and pacific time zones.

The story doesn't sound that quaint, at least through the point of the great American honeymoon, but when it was over they both were spoiled for choice when it came to finding work, work that easily accommodated home ownership and family formation. Born smack dab in the middle of the Boomer cohort, they got in on the ground floor of the dual income household, before large scale entry of women into the workforce put severe downward pressure on wages and employment.

Told today, we'd expect to hear that upon returning from the extended road trip, the new couple moved in with one of their parents, with part-time jobs as baristas working off their five-figure student loan debts.

Millennials put a premium on experiences over material goods (or having a house or kids or a career). People don't spend five decades working for the same company, steadily increasing their earnings through tenure before comfortably retiring on a company pension, anymore. Peak labor force participation is in the rear view mirror. So is Peak Marriage.

It's easy to assume that this will not end well. It may not.

GSS variables used: WEALTH, COHORT(1925-1945)(1946-1964)(1965-1976)(1977-1995)


Jim Bowery said...

Checkout this graph of mortgage interest rates.

What you and everyone else who talks about "boomers" are missing is the wave that the early boomers got to ride:

Lots of younger women to fuck.
Lots of younger men to hire.
Lots of demand for the real estate they bought before the huge run up in prices and interest rates -- both of which hit the peak of the boomers so hard there was a huge foreclosure spike in the later '80s.

Run your numbers on net assets, not as a bar chart by generation, but as a graph by birth year.

Random Dude on the Internet said...

I remain skeptical that millennials will ever get out of the hole that they're in. Sure, when the boomers retire, the jobs have to go to somebody but it will likely be for lower pay, less benefits, anti-white hiring practices, etc.

Millennial home ownership will likely increase but only because their boomer parents decide to move out and relocate to Florida or Arizona.

Baristas in their 20s will top out as shift supervisors in their 30s. At that point, she may choose to be a stay at home mother because the $10.50/hour she was making doesn't seem worth sticking around for, especially if her long term boyfriend or husband has a decent middle class job that makes $50k a year.

Many leisure type industries will just disappear because the only leisure they can really afford is Netflix and their smartphones (of course). Concepts like summer houses and boats will just go away.

The gig economy will become normalized. It won't be unusual for many millennials to have a side hustle, like being an Uber driver or a freelance web developer. It will be enough to make them a few thousand more per year but the concept of the 9-5 will just go away. Leave their day job, grab some dinner somewhere, and start their evening/night job.

I don't see it ending well either but I think it will be a while yet until that moment happens. When the shit does hit the fan, things will fall apart quickly though.

Dan said...

The ship is run tighter than ever before. I was at Safeway (a grocery store) yesterday. An employee (who looked like about 19 years old) was talking about how he helped the night manager with stocking at 4 am and was back on the same day for the evening shift.

I offered that at least he'll be getting time-and-a-half. He said no, they make sure that never happens. Presumably his manager will figure out his hours for the rest of the week to make sure he doesn't make any extra money.

Feryl said...

Harley's prospects are down because X-ers and Millennials 1)don't have as much income to blow and 2)consider the whole biker thing to be a counter-culture gimmick that's highly dangerous and expensive (besides the bike itself, there's also higher insurance rates).

"What you and everyone else who talks about "boomers" are missing is the wave that the early boomers got to ride:"

Nah, we've talked about that a lot. It's long been known (check out Strauss/Howe from the 90's) that generations can be roughly split in half to account for differing experiences. Early Boomers are more preachy, early Gen X-ers are more promiscuous than later ones, etc. Be that as it may, an overall attitude/vibe still applies to the entire generation.

"Millennial home ownership will likely increase but only because their boomer parents decide to move out and relocate to Florida or Arizona."

Per Drudge headlines, record numbers of absentee foreigners are buying US real estate. Reining that crap in is must-do populist measure. Cutting immigration off in all it's forms (including H1-B visas) is long overdue. Until we rein in foreigners jacking up prices and indeed inhabiting much of the housing itself, native born post-Boomers aren't necessarily going to be in ex-Boomer housing stock. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that aging Boomers stick around primarily white suburban areas, since later generations are much less white and those non-whites are itching to move into currently lower-middle class white areas, whose moderate property values will sag with too many blacks/Mexicans/Arabs/foreigners moving in and intimidating current or prospective white residents. Eventually, even outer suburban white prole areas will darken, and what will we do then? If we can't afford to move into an expensive area with elite professionals and a minimum of NAMs, then I guess it's time to flee to the exurbs and more remote small towns.

You can't overestimate what's been done to us since the early 90's. 1946-1989 was depressing enough (blonde Americans lost the vast majority of urban America), then in the 90's-present we really got hammered by the immivasion.

krustykurmudgeon said...

I think the problem with this is that its not like vs like. It would be interesting to compare wealth of millenials in 2017 vs Xers in 1997 and boomers in 1977

Jim Bowery said...

The big problem comparing cohorts is adjusting for the cost of replacement reproduction.

By that standard, "Spoiled GIs" would have been a better idiom than "Spoiled Boomers".

Yes, it was Boomer men who were outbid by "the economy" for the Boomer women (when they were young and taking birth control and getting abortions so they could be office ornaments), thereby causing an explosion in the cost of replacement reproduction so great that it amounted to an evolutionary notch filter.

So, who was it, exactly, that was plopping all that money down to rent all that office ornamentation?

The only person I know who came close to studying the trend since GIs was Elizabeth Warren while she was a professor at Harvard working on "The Two Income Trap" and boy did they neutralize HER!

Feryl said...

States that used to be 74% white or more, and are now less than that:

North Carolina
New Jersey

Asinine immigration policies have robbed us of much our country; the Trump admin. is really our last hope, and even if he does what we want, a future admin. could reverse those policies anyway. Even a wall; theoretically, a lot of people should get upset and blame a lack of a real or figurative wall for illegals killing people. Problem is, what if the politicians responsible for alien entry are more concerned about not offending anyone in any particular ethnic group than they are about protecting innocents, since, after all, there can be nothing done or said to suggest that America would be better off keeping certain kinds of people out. We can't do anything that Hilter would approve of. White ethnic consciousness/nativism=Hitler. Tearing down Trump's wall would be celebrated as a mutli-cult victory.

Balts and Slavs are our last hope. Most Western prole whites have seen the writing on the wall for decades, going back to the 1950's. First we had to accept desegregation and affirmative action and miscegenation. When that wasn't sufficient to assuage Western white guilt, we then opened our borders wide open for the 2nd and 3rd world whether it made any long-term sense or not (hint: it didn't and still doesn't). G.I.s, Silents, and Boomers pummeled their societies with sentimental non-sense.

Shame over Hitler apparently won't die until the last remaining Western white person is dead. We wonder what drives us to this; I do think that the most cogent explanation is lingering/unresolved guilt over Western culture producing the 3rd Reich. And too many of us apparently want to be as dead as they are.

BTW, what would it take to deter more invaders, besides more nativist policies? A financial and thus, likely social/political collapse, perhaps? Large scale ethnic warfare?

Dmitri Orlov is a Russian who lived there in the 80's and 90's, during the collapse of the Soviets. He said that Russia is ethnically homogenous enough, and it's population was practically skilled enough, to still maintain a fairly stable and peaceful culture during a time of financial distress and political upheaval. Whereas modern America, which has the most diverse demographics of any society in history and decadent hostility towards manual labor, would be in for a helluva disintegration if a tremendous poltical and/or financial crisis hit us. Western Europe itself still has solid enough demographics to effectively resolve ongoing and future problems if the natives get their balls back, but the US of A really worries me.

A Texan said...

Let's be blunt here. Boomers, at least the first wave have gotten the best of everything financially. I've met many even Hispanic ones in South Texas that got a nice early buyout in their early 50's from the refineries they worked for a number of years. They definitely earned it, but after that, the new hires got crappy 401k's and if Toby cost too much, well, we can alway get Congress to approve some more H-1's because you know they simply can't find these skilled Americans to do any of that work anymore.

Feryl said...

'The big problem comparing cohorts is adjusting for the cost of replacement reproduction.

By that standard, "Spoiled GIs" would have been a better idiom than "Spoiled Boomers".

I dunno if get what you're getting at. Regardless, it's fair to say that no matter their origin or sensibilities, three generations (G.I.s, Silents, Boomers) emerged from the post-WW2 landscape with an implacable belief that it was the destiny of white Western European man to create a perfect society, though within and between generations there was discord about what such a thing exactly was. That in itself is evidence of hubris, megalomania, and myopia about human nature and history. G.I.s and Silents are too old to ever really pay for the dumb things they pushed (though the Boomers did rudely shove G.I.s out of the zeitgeist by 1980, not that Boomer culture was an improvement on G.I. culture as a whole). But most Boomers have several decades left to ponder how close we came to mastering so much, yet that was our downfall: "we" thought that anything was possible. Race, ethnicity, gender, etc. no longer made any difference; we'd so beaten and outsmarted the old natural ways of understanding life and nature that traditional measures of identity were irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Great post...

...but it would be better if you split Gen Jones from the Baby Boomers. Gen Jones, the last third or so of the Boomers, entered a world with too many new applicants for two few jobs, those issues compounded by the Carter-Reagan recession and, for white males, Griggs v. Duke Power.

Betcha you'd find that Gen Jones lagged Gen X, despite the advantage of age.

Audacious Epigone said...


Canadian interest rates roughly mirror those in the US, I assume.


Good point, thanks.

Early Boomers/Jones:

LT $20k - 6.3%/15.5% (big difference on the broke-ass end)
Over $250k - 56.0%/42.7% (and big difference on the affluent end)

The Jones' still look better than Xers, but not by nearly as much as the Boomers as a whole do.

Random Dude,

Many leisure type industries will just disappear because the only leisure they can really afford is Netflix and their smartphones (of course). Concepts like summer houses and boats will just go away.

Nailed it. Anecdotally that already seems to overwhelmingly be the case. Boats and little lake houses were features of my middle class upbringing. My kids are growing up in a similar financial situation that I did. None of our neighbors have boats or lake houses. Instead, they have luxury SUVs they (presumably) can't afford. With economic prospects declining, those vehicles get replaced with more purely functional ones and the hunkering down continues.


In the case of catastrophe in the US, secession--for which there are new rumblings here and there every day--seems to me the most likely outcome. I say "secession", but the semantics of the procedure aren't as important as the result--the political dissolution of the US. This is a big country. The US alone has two-thirds the population and comparable economic power to the entire European Union. If the US is on one side and Britain, France, and Germany are on the other, the majority in said dispute is the American position--militarily, economically, in terms of population, geographically, etc. It's easy to look at that as 3 vs 1, but it's not really, not in any way that matters.

Parenthetically, just heard John Lennon's Imagine on spotify. What a stupid fucking song, so perfectly germane to this discussion.

A Texan,

There's a lot of ruin (and loot!) in a nation. Is that the way to look at it?

Audacious Epigone said...


It's not necessarily meant to be, as was alluded to in the body of the post. It's a combination of no savings among half the millennial population combined with dim prospects of ever acquiring much that creates the perfect storm scenario.

Or maybe not the bang of a storm but the whimper, 20 years down the road, of 45 yo neotenous virgin men playing 3D video games in their parents' basements.

Feryl said...

"Nailed it. Anecdotally that already seems to overwhelmingly be the case. Boats and little lake houses were features of my middle class upbringing"

Even if every rapacious element of post-1975 culture had remained intact, merely reversing one thing (high immigration levels) would've kept America's population at nearly the same level as it was in the 60's. Thus, by default it would be easier for the average native born person to get a good job, since fewer workers=higher wages with better benefits. No matter our land's inherent positives (young in its history, still largely undeveloped, a culture of hard work and heretofore high trust, etc) you just can't keep throwing huge waves of people into it.

BTW, it turns out that employers are given tax and wage loopholes to make highering immigrants more attractive. As if there weren't enough reasons to do so to begin with (AA, foreigners are less likely to complain, workplace solidarity is much more difficult to achieve with high levels of diversity, etc.)

Feryl said...

"Or maybe not the bang of a storm but the whimper, 20 years down the road, of 45 yo neotenous virgin men playing 3D video games in their parents' basements

The generation born after the civil war ended up being cut off at the knees by the calamity of the war itself and it's aftermath; "leaders" became intransigent and vindictive, with no interest in compromise or good faith. Millennials will end up the same unless Silents, Boomers, and X-ers can somehow right the ship.

"Parenthetically, just heard John Lennon's Imagine on spotify. What a stupid fucking song, so perfectly germane to this discussion."

We still get tons of WW2 movies, almost all about the allies fighting Germany. Why? We fought cultural conservatism, in the eyes of liberal elites. In reality, we fought the Axis because they were domineering and led by mad tyrants, and the allies referred to the enemy as krauts, wops, and Japs. We didn't feel remorse our even pity about wanting to smash these ethnicities for letting nutcases run their countries and threaten everyone else.

Unless it's the 80's, we almost never get unflattering movies about the Soviets since they were so culturally liberal, even though in substance the Soviets wrought far more damage on the world than other contempo. ideologies, both in terms of a death toll and in terms of dumb ideology. Well go figure, as soon as the Soviets dissolved, Western elites picked up the sudden liberal slack. Do we ever hear anyone point out that the Soviets used women in warfare, which was detested by non-Soviet countries back then? Every time we "won", our "leaders" doubled down on cultural nihilism and suicide. And we ret-con who our enemies were and why we fought them (we fought the Axis because muh racism, not because they were assholes delusional enought to try and take over the world, we fought the Soviets because muh small government principles, not because they were godless amoral utopians).

Audacious Epigone said...


My wife had an episode of Gilmore Girls playing the other night while she was folding clothes (she liked the show when she was a kid--keep in mind that she was only 9 when it came out before crucifying her) and I caught this, which I confirmed via a transcript search:

LORELAI: Well, I consider what my mother would do in a given situation, then I dial it back, and I have what Mussolini would do, then I dial it back, and I have what Stalin would do, and then I dial that back and then it starts approaching what a sane person would do.

The Z Blog said...

While I'm fully committed to the coming Boomercide™, I'm not shocked to see that young people are broke and old people are not. I'd be shocked if it were not so. The problem I see is that 52.9% of Boomers have less than $250K in net worth. Given that they lived through the best of times, that's a disgrace. It also means they expect to consume the wealth of the X'ers and Millennials in their decrepitude.

Time to get those trains moving.

Rainforest Giant said...

I lived with my grandparents as a kid mostly because my parents were in college and then the sixties happened and that was more important than your kids.

My parents would come home every few weeks or months and drive around to various stuff a pow wow here a protest there. You could drive everywhere on nothing. when they finally bought a house of their own despite their wasting time on protests and crap their jobs could easily pay for it plus whatever else they wanted.

When my grandfather died we moved in with my parents. It was really different than being raised by guys too old for wwii, in the case of my great grandparents too old for wwi. My parents had it easy their whole life. Jobs were plentiful, housing and education were cheap.

Crime was non-existent. No wonder they have the wealth. Don't worry, they're determined to leave nothing to posterity. That would be selfish to deny the current generation too make it on their own lime the boomers did.

Jim Bowery said...

The problem I have with intergenerational war is similar to the problem I have with inter-racial war or intra-racial (fratricida)l war:

The dividing line between friend and foe is too sloppy to provide a morale-building declaration of war.

We all know that:

* "rivers of blood" are likely to be spilled
* there are broad categories of people the world would be better off without
* attempts at bloodless revolution are receiving little sympathy or support from those that would most benefit from their success.

That being the case, it is more important than ever to cut out the incipient chimp-outs and get serious about formulating the morale building declaration of war that properly divides friend from foe while satisfying the honor men -- particularly young men --feel in their very bones.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the fact that older people generally have accumulated more wealth (paid off their house) the youngest generations are already almost majority non-white, and naturally these third-worlders are not capable of building or maintaining an advanced civilization. Think about how much money ALL whites would have if they didn't have to pay the "white tax." Whining about generations is just a cowardly way of avoiding taking on the tough reality of racial politics and dispossession. It's also a favorite bit of FUD from trolls.

Audacious Epigone said...

Z Man,

They'll control politics on old age entitlements for the better part of the next two decades, though. Democrats won't scale them back for obvious reasons, and Republicans won't because they can't win without Boomers. That more than half of them have less than a quarter of a million tucked away isn't a big concern to them.

And just going through that train of thought causes a newfound respect for your prediction of said coming boomercide.


Right. The larping at places like Berkeley are ritualistic skirmishes. A hot war won't look anything like that.

I'm embarrassed to say I'd listened to the first 20 minutes of that interview and then bookmarked it and forgot to return to it. Will rectify that now.


If you're dropping in from elsewhere, rest assured that this is not a place where finding a "cowardly way of avoiding taking on the tough reality of racial politics" is what transpires.

JayMan said...

I noticed that my comments sometimes aren't posting here. Weird.

Anyway, are these figures equalized by age for each generation?

Audacious Epigone said...


No, these are "current" to 2010, when the mean ages are roughly as follows:

Millennials -- 25
Xers -- 40
Boomers -- 55
Silent -- 75

Anonymous said...

Audacious, I don't want to call you a racist and a classist but the idea of preserving class privilege is incredibly fucked up.

As a working class nonwhite youth from the projects, whose immigrant grandparents are barely literate, I might technically be a millionaire. But the majority of folks I grew up with are struggling. Do you think we should just not give a darn about people without GEDs?
Do you think we should just stop trying to get kids to take their series 7, 4, 63 etc instead of selling drugs?

The fact is that social inequality causes all kinds of problems and just because it affects white people too doesn't mean you can blame immigrants for your problem.

If it's genetics, then how can the selfsame descendants of the Boomers be so fucked on an economic level? There is a young white man on my block who has the characteristic swollen ankles of a heroin user. He is part of a vast reserve army of panhandlers. It doesn't just affect blacks. There are a lot of Jewish, Russian and Asian kids in the area selling crack and killing each other.

Btw, the whole genetics shtick is washed up. I come from people who were economically driven to a penal colony in my ancestral country after segregation was abolished. We grew up with physical violence and alcoholism in the family. That doesn't mean my brothers and I weren't able to get good grades.

Fuck class privilege. White and minority working class folks need to stick together against the 1%.

Jim Bowery said...

10 Year US Bond Rates from 1910s to 2010s

The peak is a dagger through the heart of Mid to Late Boomer Affordable Family Formation.

"The Boomers" didn't do this to themselves -- and it most assuredly was one of the key circumstances that conspired to cuck that generation.