To be sure, these averages obscure as much as they reveal: wealth is distributed wildly unequally, both between age groups, but also within them. Some twenty-somethings are thriving in well-paid white collar jobs, some are bouncing between unpaid internships, some are struggling to find work that doesn’t require a college degree. Overall, wages are up for 25-34-year-old women since the early 1980s, but down for men.
But granting all that, I think it’s fair to say this: today’s thirty somethings are climbing out of a deep enough hole that they may never become as wealthy as the boomers unless home values rebound dramatically, and even then, many will only be getting back to even. Their younger siblings in Gen Y, however, are better educated and not perceptibly worse off, in the aggregate, than their parents were at this age. They’ve had a rough start, and it remains to be seen whether they will get the benefit of massive bull markets in stocks or housing that helped pad their parents’ bank accounts. But they’re not doomed yet.