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A Gen Y Edge in the War on the Young?

According to a recent study by the Urban Institute, the young Americans of generations X and Y have accumulated less wealth than their parents did when they were in their twenties and thirties, and they’ll continue to lag behind the baby boomers as they get older.

But the Atlantic’s Jordan Weissman disputes this report, and the NYT‘s take on it, arguing that twenty-somethings, at least, still have a chance to rebound:

The housing market crashed just as today’s thirty-somethings were getting into it. As a result, they found themselves in lots of debt and with very little to show for it.

Today’s thirty somethings are climbing out of a deep enough hole that they may never become as wealthy as the boomers unless home values rebound dramatically, and even then, many will only be getting back to even. Their younger siblings in Gen Y, however, are better educated and not perceptibly worse off, in the aggregate, than their parents were at this age. They’ve had a rough start, and it remains to be seen whether they will get the benefit of massive bull markets in stocks or housing that helped pad their parents’ bank accounts. But they’re not doomed yet.

We certainly hope the younger members of this cohort have a bright future, but they’re facing serious obstacles. We’ve already discussed how soaring student debt, lower average wages, and a dented job market are causing young Americans to delay getting married, buying homes, and starting families. On top of this, the boomers have used their ample political power to introduce medicare and pension hikes for themselves that their children will be paying off for decades to come.

Nonetheless, Weissman is right that today’s twenty-somethings have some positive things going for them, and that they are in a good position to reap the benefits of the coming recovery. That is, as long as the boomers don’t take all of their money first.

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