Killing the Golden Goose: Millennials Earn Less Than Their Parents Did

Peter St. Onge Peter St. Onge

Peter St. Onge

May 3rd, 2024 Comments

For the first time in our nation's history, 30 year olds are doing worse than their parents.

In other words, we killed the golden goose.

The Fading American Dream (Chart)

Last week, Professor Scott Galloway went on an epic rant on MSNBC laying out for his well-heeled hosts exactly what young people are going through right now.

Rattling off the numbers, for Americans born in 1951 – that's baby boomers – fully 80% were earning more than their parents. By Gen X that was down to 60%. For Millennials it's barely 50%. We can only imagine what's coming for the Zoomers.

I've talked a lot in videos about what's happening to the young, from being shut out of housing to being stuck cobbling together shifts to make ends meet instead of building a proper career.

In short, they're spending their evenings eating ramen with the roommates instead of building a family and a nest-egg like their parents. They look with envy upon the boomers who seemed to get life on easy mode.

Percentage of Young Adults with at Least One Child in the Household (Chart)

What happened? The Federal government.

Runaway spending and Fed-induced crisis after crisis that wiped out the productive economy, substituting it with a progressive Soviet-style commissar who makes it easy to fail, easy to go on welfare, but almost impossible to succeed.

Ruined Finances, Ruined Lives

Thing is, the money's just the start. As Scott points out, the pool of young men who can provide is drying up, wreaking havoc on the marriage market. Young people aren't having sex, they're not even going out.

In 1990, 60% of Americans in their early 30's had kids. Now it's 27%. Young Americans are more depressed, more obese, more addicted. As Galloway puts it, they're pissed off, and that anger means that every issue is an "opportunistic infection" driving them to rage.

Most Unmarried Young Adults Say Theyd Like to Marry Someday (Chart)

In fact, just last week CNBC reported on a new study of the rising wealth gap among millennials.

In short, the main driver of inequality among millennials is now inheritance: Those who chose their parents wisely get the Boomer trickle-down, lording it over their peers.

In fact, according to the study, the wealth gap among millennials is now the largest of any generation, creating "a new wave of tension and resentment."

They're poorer – on average millennials are 1/3 poorer than Boomers were at their age. With lower levels of home ownership, low-wage and unstable jobs, and larger debts.

Yet the top 10% of millennials are far richer than the top 10% of Boomers were.

Percentage of Young Adults Saying they Received Financial Help from Their Parents Related to Each of the Following in the Past 12 Months (Chart)

Given these nouveaux riche millennials don't have kids, of course, they're driving a boom in everything from luxury travel to wealth-management to in-town condos with all the amenities.

Maybe you've seen the Tiktok videos of the DINKS – double-income-no-kids living it up in Bali. CNBC calls them "nepo babies" and it's all thanks, apparently, to dead Boomers. The last resource available to the young.

Well, some of the young.

What’s Next

I usually talk about economics – inflation, incomes, wealth and debt. But the reason isn't the money, it's what's downstream of all of that.

The Sovietization of the American economy is destroying two generations and counting, and it's turning us into something closer to Latin America, where your future isn't built on hard work, it's built on who your parents are.

There's still time – we still have millions of entrepreneurs, millions of self-made Americans to teach the next generation. But the American Dream is dying before our eyes.

Peter St. Onge

About the Author:

Peter St. Onge writes articles about Economics and Freedom. He's an economist at the Heritage Foundation, a Fellow at the Mises Institute, and a former professor at Taiwan’s Feng Chia University. His website is