Wealth inequality in the U.S. is nearly as bad as it was during the Gilded Age that preceded the Great Depression. In 2017, the three richest men in the world, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett, had a combined net worth of $248.5 billion—more than $3 billion higher than the net worth of the bottom 160 million people in the United States. And the combined net worth of those three men has only grown in the last two years.
The wealth gap is poised to get worse as millennials get older. In late October, the nonpartisan think tank New America, published a study called, "The Emerging Millennial Wealth Gap," finding that millennials earn, on average, 20 percent less than baby boomers did at a similar point in their lives. This is despite the fact that millennials are more educated than earlier generations, with 40 percent of them having at least a bachelor's degree compared to 25 percent among boomers.
Per the report: "Simply stated, the Millennial generation has less wealth and a poor generational balance sheet. While the income of a typical Millennial is only slightly below levels predicted by the experience of past generations, young adults in America today are on a much lower trajectory in their wealth accumulation than their predecessors. Dramatically so."
This mirrors the findings from Young Invincibles, a nonprofit dedicated to financial education. In 2017, Young Invincibles reported that along with earning $10,000 less than boomers on average, millennials also have half the assets and accumulated wealth of their parents' generation at the same age.
Partly, this generational gap is the lingering fallout of the Great Recession in 2008. While the net worth of families across the U.S. plummeted, young families were hit particularly hard, and the job prospects for millennials graduating into the recession were scarce and lower-paying. The economy has technically recovered, the gains haven't been evenly distributed. More and more people are also working as independent contractors rather than full employees, whether they want to or not. On top of that, since 1979 wages across all age groups haven't risen as fast as inflation. Millennials are making less while the cost of absolute necessities—rent, insurance, health care, food, college—have skyrocketed.
This partly accounts for some of the frustration and resentment millennials and Generation Z have toward the baby boomers, most recently crystallized in the dismissive meme, "Ok boomer." It's not so much a pejorative for anyone over 50—in this case being a boomer is more about attitude and reactionary values. One 18-year-old recently told the New York Times, "We’re not taking a jab at boomers as a whole — we’re not going for their lives. If it’s a jab at anyone it’s outdated political figures who try to run our lives."
It also seems to be a collective reaction to the "Millennials Have Killed X" op-ed genre. Just three days before New America's report came out, the New York Post published the most outlandish one of these yet, titled, "How millennials have killed the Manhattan power lunch."Emily Kirkpatrick, a millennial and reporter for the Post, pointed out on Twitter that she's expected to work through lunch at her desk, but the issue is even deeper than one office's lunch policy. They aren't taking long, boozy lunches for the same reason they have lower rates of home ownership, aren't eating out, are skimping on fabric softener, and may never retire. They can't afford to do otherwise.
Each week, at an apartment in Brooklyn, a small collection of guys get together to sift through and discover some of their deepest feelings—their secret fears, their hidden desires, their private shortcomings—in the hope that they can become better men. It's a messy, emotional, imperfect project that's part of a growing movement of men reexamining the expectations of masculinity. And it has changed my life.
Originally Appeared on GQ