Post-Recession Progress Report: Why Only Gen X Came Out Ahead

Post-Recession Progress Report: Why Only Gen X Came Out Ahead

Every day seems to bring with it a new article about Millennials: their money habits, their unusual career trajectories, how they are bucking the norm and changing the world.

But it turns out the real winners in the post-Great Recession economy aren't Millennials or even their Boomer parents—it's Generation X. According to the Federal Reserve Board's recently released 2010-2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, families headed by those between the ages of 35 and 44 were the only age group to experience an increase in median income since the downturn.


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To be fair, the income jump for Gen Xers was a slight 6%, and there isn’t a single age group whose median income has returned to pre-recession levels. Still, Gen Xers now earn as much as those in the 45-to-54 year old age range, and even out-earn those ages 55 to 64.

The reasons why Gen Xers have come out ahead of the rest of the country could be attributed to a couple of different factors, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

For one, this age group is generally more skilled than younger workers and less expensive to hire than older employees. Additionally, people in this age group likely exhibited the skills most in demand during the economic recovery, or they were best able to switch from low-opportunity to high-opportunity areas.

But there's one important implication of increased earnings for Gen X-ers: It also widens the income inequality gap for this age range. It makes sense, because if Gen X possesses the most desirable skills, then the most skilled workers in that group would also see the biggest pay increases.

Of course, even the wealthiest members of Generation X aren’t free from financial worries. The older Gen Xers have to brace themselves to enter the “Sandwich Generation,” which is the demographic that has to juggle the needs of aging parents, children and their own retirement—all which pose a whole new set of challenges.


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