July 13, 2022
The New York Times had a piece earlier this week on how millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996, are having a really tough time paying their bills. Implicitly, the argument is that this generation is doing much worse financially than their parents.
While the piece profiles several millennials who are having a tough time making ends meet, it might have been useful if it looked at actual data. At the most basic level, younger workers would have a much easier time finding a job today than their parents did three decades ago.
In June 1992, the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent for workers between the ages of 25 and 35. The data for June of this year shows the unemployment rate for this group was 3.4 percent. The economy had a recession from March of 1990 to 1991, but even prior to the recession, the unemployment rate for young workers was far higher than it is today.
The other obvious item to consider is wages. Here too it is hard to paint a picture where young workers are worse off today than they were three decades ago. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the median hourly wage in 2021 was $21.35. That is 19.6 percent higher than the median of $17.85 in 1992 (both numbers in 2021 dollars).
These facts don’t mean that many millennials are not struggling to make ends meet, to pay off student debt, or trying to buy a home, but the idea that their parents had it markedly better is just nonsense. Of course, both millennials and their parents would be much better off if we had not pursued so many policies (e.g. longer and stronger patent monopolies, protection for doctors and other highly paid professionals) to redistribute so much income upward. But apparently the NYT doesn’t have space to discuss this issue.