As the resurgence of anti-establishment, populist parties across the developed west would appear to suggest, young people in the world’s wealthiest countries are coping with levels of doubt and pessimism unlike anything witnessed in modern history. And a recent study published by the think tank Resolution Foundation incorporating data from eight developed countries – but focusing on the UK – found that the millennial generation will almost certainly be worse off than the generation that preceded them.
The rates of growth in home ownership, incomes, life expectancy, the broader economy and a host of other factors is slowing rapidly in developed countries, contributing to an air of pervasive pessimism, which the study also captured.
As Bloomberg points out, in the UK, Generation X was 54% better off than the baby boom generation, which consists of people born between 1946 and 1965. Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000), meanwhile, had incomes just 6% higher than those of Generation X at the same age.
The drop in rates of home ownership is also notable, as the younger generation clusters in cities, where they’re typically unable to afford to purchase property. For millennials in their late 20s, the figure is 33% compared with 60% for baby boomers at the same age.
Indeed, pessimism about the prospects for living standards is also high across high-income countries, with the UK more downbeat than many of its peers. Both long-run trends and more recent developments provide the backdrop for many of these shared anxieties.
For example, in nearly all high-income economies, the post-war baby boom and increases in life expectancy have acted together to bring about population ageing, which will likely continue to a crunch in social services in the coming decades. This phenomenon is present in the UK and the US but particularly acute in Japan, where birth rates have plummeted to among the lowest in the developed world.
Finally, voting rates are another manifestation of this generational malaise. Those in their late teens and early 20s are less likely to vote than older people across advanced economies.
The turnout gap is particularly large in the UK. The evidence suggests that this difference remained sizeable in the UK’s 2017 general election, although turnout increased markedly for a slightly older group in their 30s and early 40s.
But perhaps the most acute problem is the declining growth of the economy. Indeed, in every developed country measured by the study, the rate of growth has declined (in all countries except Australia), something the authors of the study attributed to the economic shock of the financial crisis.
At this point, the millennial generation is already living through these declines in overall quality of life throughout the developed world. But one question that has not yet been addressed is whether the generation that follows the millennials will see this slide continue, or experience some kind of inter-generational rebound.
Read the study in its entirety below: