Generation X Alone in Fully Recovering From Great Recession

 Andrew Soergel

ONLY ONE GENERATION IN the U.S. has fully recovered the wealth its members lost during and immediately following the Great Recession, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center.

A Pew analysis of Federal Reserve financial data showed median household wealth for members of Generation X – those born between 1965 and 1980 – sitting at $84,200 in 2016. That's an increase of more than $20,000 from the demographic's net worth in 2007.

Gen Xers represented the only group of Americans to see a full recovery from the housing crash and subsequent recession that swept the U.S. during the late 2000s. Baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – registered a median net worth of $184,200 in 2016, down nearly $40,000 from pre-recessionary levels. The silent generation – born between 1928 and 1945 – meanwhile, held a median net worth of $253,800. That's nearly $14,000 shy of where the demographic's wealth sat in 2007.

"Since 2010, the median net worth of Gen X households has risen 115 percent," Richard Fry, a senior economics and education researcher at Pew, wrote in a recent blog post. "As of 2016, the median wealth of households headed by Boomers and the Silent Generation remains below 2007 levels, though their household wealth still exceeds that of Gen X."


The Generation X wealth recovery is made all the more notable by the fact that the demographic was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession. The age group's median net worth fell by 38 percent between 2007 and 2010, considerably more than the 26 percent drop and 14 percent decline experienced by baby boomers and members of the silent generation, respectively.

"During the downturn, Gen X homeowners experienced the largest decline in home equity," Fry said. "The median home equity of Gen X homeowners fell 43 percent from 2007 ($66,000) to 2010 ($37,600). Boomer and Silent homeowners had smaller declines in median home equity (28 percent and 15 percent, respectively)."

But Gen X-ers' home equity and financial assets have boomed since 2010. And, with the oldest member of the generation still just 51 years old in 2016, Fry notes that "Gen X workers are still approaching their peak earnings years," suggesting even larger wealth gains could be on the horizon.

"Through first-hand experience Gen Xers learned the painful consequences of economic contractions," Fry said. "At least in terms of wealth, they are now better positioned to weather the next one."

Like those from Generation X, millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – in 2016 had also accrued a greater median net worth than what they held in 2007. At $12,300, the median millennial household held nearly $7,000 more than it did before the Great Recession hit.

But millennials didn't see a downtick in wealth between 2007 and 2010. And although Fry's write-up notes millennials were hit hard by the recession "in terms of employment and earnings," the demographic didn't have to deal with wealth recovery to nearly the same extent as those in older generations.

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Andrew Soergel
04 September, 2018
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