Gen Z’s lot in life

How does Gen Z’s economic situation compare with that of their parents and grandparents?

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Gen Z’s lot in life


The Future. How does Gen Z’s economic situation compare with that of their parents and grandparents? While they do enjoy a higher standard of living now, they’re more dependent on their families for education, housing, and healthcare than ever before. If wage growth doesn’t keep up with the soaring cost of living, economic mobility may be in trouble.

Past vs. present
Fast Company analyzes the economic challenges facing Gen Z against those of yesteryear.

  • In the 1950s, 30% of household income was enough to pay for college tuition; today, people need to shell out 80% to cover the cost of the same degree.
  • Since 1965, housing prices have increased by 118%, while wages have only increased by 15%.
  • In 1980, men with a college degree earned only 16% more than those with a high school education. Now, men with a high school degree earn an average of $40,000. Those with at least a bachelor’s? $70,000.
  • Those who graduate during a recession will likely see a hit to their earnings for the first 10 to 15 years of their career.

Small steps forward
On the bright side, the wage gap is tightening. In 1980, women earned an average of 67 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts. In 2021, they earned 93.

Who knows, Gen Z might become the first generation to close the gender pay gap.

Kait Cunniff

Kait is a Chicago-raised, LA-based writer and NYU film grad. She created an anthology TV series for Refinery29 and worked as a development executive for John Wells Productions, Jon M. Chu, and Paramount Pictures. Her favorite color is orange.


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