The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being

Nov 07, 2011

Households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains relative to those headed by younger adults in their economic well-being over the past quarter of a century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of a wide array of government data.

In 2009, households headed by adults ages 65 and older possessed 42% more median net worth (assets minus debt) than households headed by their same-aged counterparts had in 1984. During this same period, the wealth of households headed by younger adults moved in the opposite direction. In 2009, households headed by adults younger than 35 had 68% less wealth than households of their same-aged counterparts had in 1984.

As a result of these divergent trends, in 2009 the typical household headed by someone in the older age group had 47 times as much net wealth as the typical household headed by someone in the younger age group–$170,494 versus $3,662 (all figures expressed in 2010 dollars). Back in 1984, this had been a less lopsided ten-to-one ratio. In absolute terms, the oldest households in 1984 had median net wealth $108,936 higher than that of the youngest households. In 2009, the gap had widened to $166,832.

Read the full report, The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being, on the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Web site.

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