Start with college. Millennials are the most educated generation in U.S. history to date. They “did what they were told,” as Sanders once said. “They got an education and worked hard. But instead of being rewarded, millennials are now being punished with crushing student debt.” According to a study commissioned by Sanders and written by the Government Accountability Office, 45 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 have student loans compared with just 16 percent of Boomers at the same age. Millennials’ loan-to-income ratio is more than double that of previous generations.
Next, there’s the labor force. While the unemployment rate is low, wage growth has fallen behind its historical trend line, putting the American Dream at risk. In 1970, a 30-year-old had a 92 percent chance of earning more than her parents did at the same age. But today, she has just a 50 percent chance of out-earning her parents. In these 40 years, this version of the American Dream has gone from a near certainty to a coin flip. Meanwhile, the cost of many necessities has gone up. Medical coverage is expensive, even for the full-time employed, and child care is often unaffordable, even when both parents are working.
Finally, and perhaps most important, there’s housing. Even dutiful penny pinchers who make their own morning coffee and avoid avocado toast may still find home ownership out of reach. Young people in their late-20s and early-30s today are about one-third less likely to own a house than their parents were at the same age, according to the Federal Reserve. The home-ownership rate among young black Americans has fallen below 30 percent, its lowest rate in 60 years.