A Tough Dream to Sell
Millennials have trouble buying into the American Dream — and with good reason.
This generation, defined as born between early 1980s and the mid-1990s, is now the largest generation in the U.S. But coming of age around the turn of the century also meant that millennials have already experienced multiple economic downturns: the Global Financial Crisis and subsequent recession, the pandemic, and for older millennials, the dot-com bubble bursting.
That’s why, despite abundant evidence of a strong economy, millennials are having a hard time seeing a bright future.
Graduating into a volatile economic climate is stressful enough, but millennials — the most educated generation in the nation’s history — also faced the rising costs of education. The price of attending a public university for a four-year degree climbed more than 200% between 1987 and 2017.
Higher costs of education have made it harder for millennials to build wealth, especially when compared to baby boomers and Gen X. The wealth gap between millennials and older generations remains significant. But it seems to be narrowing. Wages rising faster than inflation, especially since 2019, have helped, too.
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