News & Opinion | May 28, 2020 8:00 am

Millennials Have Experienced Slower Economic Growth Than Any Generation in History

Millennials have drawn the short end of the stick over and over again

Millennials financial crisis
Maybe they're born with it, maybe they've been plagued by massive economic crises since birth.
sarote pruksachat/Getty Images

Millennials were screwed before the pandemic. Now they’re the most screwed generation of all time.

Thanks to multiple recessions hitting at key points in millennials’ lifetimes, the generation has experienced slower economic growth than any other before it, prompting the Washington Post‘s Andrew Van Dam to dub millennials “the unluckiest generation in U.S. history.”

A recent analysis reveals that millennials, still reeling from economic setbacks of the Great Recession, have been disproportionately struck by the current financial crisis. Millennial employment dropped 16 percent in March and April, faster than either Gen X or Baby Boomers.

Meanwhile, millennials never fully recovered from the Great Recession, in which they were also disproportionately affected. In a 2019 working paper, Census Bureau economist Kevin Rinz found that millennials lost about 13 percent of their earnings between 2005 and 2017, compared to nine- and seven-percent losses endured by Gen X and Boomers, respectively. And while Boomers’ earnings had recovered by the end of that period, millennials’ remained below where they should have been, failing to recover in time for the next crisis.

“The story here is not just that it’s a bad recession, and that it’s hitting young people more, but that it’s hitting people who have already been hit,” said Gray Kimbrough, an economist with American University.

Kimbrough pointed out that the oldest millennials entered the labor market in the recession that hit around the same time as 9/11, spent their early years struggling to find work during a jobless recovery, followed by the Great Recession and another jobless recovery, only to now find themselves in the throes of yet another recession. Meanwhile, these repeated setbacks prevented millennials from developing the same financial cushion previous generations had at their age, rendering them all the more vulnerable to the effects of economic strife.

Essentially, this latest analysis confirms what millennials have always known: they got a raw deal from day one. It took three economic crises, but maybe Boomers will finally shut up about avocado toast now.

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