If the stereotype of millennials as super-entitled is correct, then how is Generation Y going to pay for all they believe they are entitled to?
An upcoming book Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials written by Malcolm Harris, investigates the sober truth that many younger Americans’ wealth will not outpace their parents.
Harris, who seems to consider himself a spokesman for millennials on the grounds that he was born in 1988, writes in the book, due in October: “Americans have taken for granted that ours is a society getting wealthier and that children will out-earn their parents.”
Citing decade-driven research from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) comparing one generation’s earnings to that of another, Harris notes: “In the 1940 cohort, approximately 90% percent out-earned their parents. But for Millennials, the mobility number is down to 50%: It’s a coin flip whether we’ll out-earn our parents.
“The analysts conclude that the drastic change comes from the shifting, increasingly unequal distribution of GDP, rather than a lack of growth itself. The American dream isn’t fading (as the title of the NBER Paper says), it’s being hoarded.”
Going to college- as extortionate as it is- might not help all that much either. Harris writes: “The average wealth for households without a bachelor’s and without student debt is actually higher than that for the indebted graduate, at just under $11,000.
“The worst off are those without a bachelor’s but who have still racked up some debt-not uncommon considering the many Americans who enter programs but don’t finish, and the number in two-year and vocational programs. The wealth that’s supposed to come with educational debt hasn’t accrued to the tail end of Gen X yet, and it’s going to get worse.”
Harris gloomily concludes: “The path from worker to owner gets steeper and more treacherous, and since few millennials are born with a stock portfolio, fewer of us will make it up the mountain than in past generations.’
Not that the millennials on Wall Street have it much better, he reckons: “The best of the best millennials end up doing the analytical drudge work that makes superefficient production possible, then crying to reporters over their beers. It hardly seems worth it.”
Kids These Days,: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcolm Harris is published November 7. Of course one barometer of millennials’ attitude to money will be if any of them actually shell out $25 to buy his book.