Gen Y Income Inequality: What It Takes to Be in the Millennial 1%

Gen Y Income Inequality: What It Takes to Be in the Millennial 1%

When you hear the phrase "one-percenter," what do you imagine?

If you're like most people, a suited, silver-haired Wall Streeter probably comes to mind. But research newly compiled by media company Fusion reminds us that income inequality certainly isn't unique to the Boomer generation.

In fact, it may actually be worse among Millennials.


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Comparing U.S. Census income data among 18- to 34-year-olds in 2014, Fusion found that it takes earnings of about $129,000 per year to make into the Millennial 1% set, in which there are 720,000 young adults.

But on the other end of the spectrum, as many as 14 million Millennials fill out the bottom 20% of earners—and they control just half the total income that the 1% does.

Even worse: the report found that 28 million Gen Yers (out of a total population of 70 million) reap less than $10,000 per year—and also aren't enrolled in school. With such a large base of low-earning young adults, that means that an annual salary of just $60,000 sends a Millennial into the top 10% of earners in his generation. Compare that to the top 10% of Boomers, who make more than $90,000 annually.

The gap among Millennials also seems to be growing: While the top 20% of young adults boasted four times the net worth of everyone else in their age group in 2000, they had eight times the amount in 2011 (the last year for which data is available).

What's propelling these trends? Though it's hard to say exactly, much of it can probably be chalked up to education—or lack thereof. 76% of Gen Y one-percenters hold at least a bachelor's degree—and just 7% of that group only graduated high school.

“On almost every basic indicator you want to look at,” Richard Fry, a Pew economist, told MainStreet, “the typical outcomes for college educated Millennials are substantially better than they are for the typical high school educated Millennial."

Curious how your own income stacks up against that of Millennial one-percenters? Check out the cool calculator on Fusion.


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