Baby Boomers Nearly 9 Times Wealthier Than Millennials

Wealth is the value of assets owned minus the liabilities (debts) owed. As described in a previous report on household wealth in 2017, the new U.S. Census Bureau report and detailed tables on household wealth in 2019 show similarly wide variations across demographic and socioeconomic groups but also detail generational wealth differences for the first time.

For example, it shows that baby boomers are nearly nine times wealthier than millennials.

When excluding home equity, Generation X and baby boomers had a median wealth of $48,070 and $90,060, respectively.

Contributors to Household Wealth

Just two assets — home equity and retirement accounts — accounted for 65.2% of households’ wealth in 2019.

Median home equity (the value of a home minus the mortgage balance) was $130,000, and the median household retirement account balance was $69,900.

While many households owned these assets, others did not: 38.7% of households did not own a home, and 41.2% of households did not have a retirement account.

Some commonly held assets made up a small portion of household wealth. In 2019, 95.4% of households had bank or credit union accounts. However, these accounts made up only 8.3% of total household wealth.

Home Ownership

Home equity did not fully account for the difference in median wealth between households that own and households that rent.

Households that owned their home had a median wealth of $305,000, substantially larger than those that rented ($4,084).

Even when home equity was excluded from total wealth, the median wealth of households that owned their home was $125,500, 30.7 times that of the median wealth of households that rented.

Generations and Wealth

The generation in which a householder (those who owned or rented their home) was born affects household wealth.

Not surprisingly, “Generation Z,” the youngest generation with adult members (born 1997 to 2013), had less wealth than the oldest and wealthiest “Silent Generation” (born 1928 to 1945): median wealth of $3,080 compared to $253,200.

Millennials, who were between 23 and 38 years old by the end of 2019, also had less wealth compared to other older generations. Millennials had a median wealth of only $27,420, while “Generation X” (born 1965 to 1980) had $121,400 and baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) had $240,900.

When excluding home equity, Generation X and baby boomers had a median wealth of $48,070 and $90,060, respectively.

Health Insurance

Households with members who did not have health insurance all or part of the year had dramatically lower median wealth ($21,550) than households in which all members had coverage for the full year ($156,600).

Those without health insurance were almost twice as likely as fully insured households to hold medical debt (27.9% and 14.6%, respectively).

The median amount owed by households with people who did not have health insurance all or part of the year is not statistically different from the median amount owed by fully insured households ($2,400 and $2,000, respectively).

Marital Status

Unmarried female householders of any age had a median wealth of $36,600.

That was 73.0% of their unmarried male counterparts’ median wealth of $50,160 and only 13.6% of their married counterparts’ median wealth of $269,000.

Such disparities by sex and marital status persisted over most age groups.

Race and Hispanic Origin

Relative to Black and Hispanic householders, non-Hispanic White and Asian householders had higher median household wealth.

Non-Hispanic White householders had a median household wealth of $187,300, compared with $14,100 for Black householders and $31,700 for Hispanic householders.

Asian householders had a median household wealth of $206,400, which is not statistically different from the estimate for non-Hispanic White householders.

Education

Higher education can be linked to higher median household wealth.

Households in which the most educated member held a bachelor’s degree had a median wealth of $196,800, compared with $40,560 for households in which the most educated member only had a high school diploma.

Those with graduate or professional degrees had about twice the median wealth ($408,700) of bachelor’s degree holders.

Employment

Households in which at least one member was unemployed or worked part-time during the year had less wealth than those in which one or more members worked full-time, year-round.

Households in which at least one person had a full-time job for the entire year had a median wealth of $131,200, compared with $85,180 for households in which one or more members had a part-time job during the year, and $28,500 for households in which one or more people were unemployed.

About Authors

Neil Bennett and Briana Sullivan are economists and Donald Hays is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

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