Households headed by a person age 65 or older have a net worth 47 times greater than households headed by someone under 35, the widest wealth gap between young and old on record.
According to U.S. Census data, the wealth gap between these two groups is double what it was in 2005 and almost five times what it was 25 years ago. Net worth measures all assets, such as investments, cash, home equity, cars and other property, minus any debt like credit cards, car loans and mortgages.
So while it's natural that older generations would have more time to accumulate assets and reduce debt, economists say this recession has hurt the younger generations more, especially as they take on loans for additional education and are possibly underwater in their mortgages.
An article in the Wall Street Journal points out that unemployment is worse for young men in particular, at 14.4 percent, up from 6 percent four years ago. That compares with a national unemployment rate of 9 percent.
Other reasons for the disparity are the precipitous drop in housing values. A home is typically the main asset of young people, and, according to an article in the Associated Press, their housing wealth dropped 31 percent from 1984, while older Americans, who likely bought their home before the housing boom, saw a 57 percent gain, even after the housing bust.
Older Americans are also staying in their jobs longer and since 1967 have seen their median income grow four times faster than the under-35 age group.
As a result, some are charging Congress with reducing money that is supporting benefits for older people, such as Social Security and Medicare, and reallocating it toward programs that will help the younger generation. What do you think of that idea?
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