Life Course Trajectories and Wealth Accumulation in the United States: Comparing Baby Boomers and Millennials

Anette E. Fasang, Humboldt Universit├Ąt zu Berlin
Zachary Van Winkle, University of Oxford
Rob Gruijters, University of Oxford

There is a strong public perception that Millennials are economically worse off than their parents, not least because of an increase in precarious employment and more volatile family patterns. Using detailed panel data from the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth, we analyze the work and family life courses of Millennials and Babyboomers from age 18 to 35 and relate them to wealth outcomes at the end of this period. We find that cohort differences in wealth change across the distribution: the poorest Millennials have less wealth than their Babyboomer counterparts at the same stage in their lives, but the wealthiest Millennials have more. Family and work trajectories are strongly associated with wealth accumulation, but the cohort differences we observed cannot be attributed to compositional shifts in life course trajectories.

Presented in Session 2: Economic and Emotional Well-being across the Life Course