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April 4, 2013 at 6:33 AM

What American dream? Younger generations no longer wealthier than previous ones

My Thursday column is a millennial voter’s manifesto for 2013, and how engaging in politics regularly is the only way younger people can change their dismal job prospects. It’s rarely mentioned in the unemployment reports that even as general unemployment has dipped slowly to 7.7 percent, for 20- to 24-year-olds unemployment is 13.1 percent.

One of the most disheartening economic trends I found while researching the column was that younger generations are no longer wealthier than previous ones, according to a March Urban Institute report.

Here is a chart that illustrates what’s happened to wealth accumulation in each generation.

Urban Institute Generational Wealth

Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop wrote about the Urban Institute study in a Mar. 19 column and said that there’s more to life than money. True, up to a point.

There are people in Seattle right now trying to decide between buying groceries and paying the water bill. Seattle City Council member Jean Godden wrote about them in this Mar. 11 op-ed “Get clean water to children of Seattleā€™s struggling families.”

In my column I alluded to living on beans and stealing toilet paper. That was when I was a three-year intern reporter at The Seattle Times and I made less than $25,000 a year. I led a frugal life. I shared an apartment with a roommate. I had no car payment, thanks to the gift of a used car from my parents. I was repaying $30,000 in student loans. I had trouble finding money in my budget to buy meat at Safeway, and sometimes, toilet paper.

I was definitely happier when I got a raise.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy three-ply.

Comments | Topics: economy, millennials

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