FILE PHOTO: Photo by Benjamin Ranger on Unsplash

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Old timers are – by far – the richest class of Americans.

A recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed significant median wealth gaps between generations of American adults who own their own homes and those who do not.

The U.S. Census Bureau confirms that, saying that its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) reveals that baby boomers are nearly nine times wealthier than Millennials.

That’s just common sense, according to Census analysts, because baby boomers generally own homes and have retirement savings.

Millennials do not.

That sobering assessment, compiled by Census economists Neil Bennett and Briana Sullivan with the help of statistician Donald Hays, is based on 2019 data and doesn’t even take into account the economic consequences of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

The Census considers wealth to be the value of assets owned minus liabilities (debts) owed. The 2019 SIPP report on household wealth showed wide variations across both demographic and socioeconomic groups. The report also detailed generational wealth differences.

Bennett and Sullivan explained that just two assets – home equity and retirement accounts – accounted for nearly 65 percent of household wealth in 2019.

The median home equity (value of the home minus its mortgage balance) of all Americans was $130,000 and the median household retirement account balance was $69,900.

But 38 percent of households did not own a home and 41 percent did not have a retirement account. Those situations disproportionately affect young adults.

Not surprisingly, Generation Z – the youngest generation with adult members (born 1997 to 2013) – had much less wealth then the oldest and wealthiest Silent Generation (born 1928 to 1945).

The median wealth gap between those generations was $3,080 for Generation Z compared to $253,200 for the Silent Generation.

Similar wealth gaps are found between Baby Boomers and subsequent generations of adults.

Baby Boomers (those born 1946 to 1964) had a median wealth of $240,900.

Generation X (born 1965 to 1980) had a median wealth of $121,400.

But Millennials – who were between 23 and 38 years old at the end of 2019 – had a median wealth of only $27,420.

The difference between Generation X and the Millennials is that members of Generation X have generally had the opportunity to purchase homes — particularly after the housing market collapse of 2008 — while the Millennials were forced by skyrocketing home prices to rent their residences.

When excluding home equity from wealth equations, Bennett and Sullivan say young adults do significantly better.

For example, the median wealth of Generation X, when computed without home equity, is $48,070 compared to $90,060 for Baby Boomers.

But Millennials still suffer badly by any comparison. Minus home equity, their median wealth is only $13,110.

Home equity did not fully account for the difference in median wealth between household that own and households that rent, however.

Ignoring generational status, households that owned their home had a median wealth of $305,000, according to Bennett and Sullivan.

That’s substantially higher than those household who rent, which had a median income of $4,084.

Even when home equity was excluded from total wealth, they say, the median wealth of household that owned their home was 30.7 times that of the median wealth of household that rent.



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