Is Generation Z Really the Poorest Generation?

With rising inflation and skyrocketing home prices many would claim that we are in the most unstable time in decades. Others even go so far to say that we are poorer than ever. 

However, are we getting caught up in the present day struggles and losing sight of history? Or is today the most financially difficult time to live in the past 30 years?

This video looks into who is Generation Z and are they really the poorest generation by comparing how things were financially today versus previous generations.

Now, before we get too much into the details, if you have paid attention to the media at all, you may notice that generational headlines frequently appear in the news. Usually dunking on previous generations calling them entitled, lazy and spoiled. However, this is just an age-old tactic to garner attention that has been used in documented history as far back as Socrates’ critique of the younger generation having no manners. Hence, paying attention to the mainstream media can make one very biased towards the actual answer.

That being said, sample sizing is extremely difficult especially given culture differences, demographics, socioeconomics, hence, we will stay away from more behavior tendencies and more towards financial pieces. I am not denying the presence of crazy Tik Tok users, but more so saying it doesn’t represent an entire generation. 


Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z pertains to a 15 year period where people who are born in the United States range from 1995 to the mid 2010s. However, sources range on when the actual date starts, Pew Research states that Generation Z is officially marked in 1997 while others state that Generation Z starts in 1996.   

Why a 15 year period? Usually Generation literature breaks down generations into segments of 15 years. However, that doesn’t make much sense because that basically implies that every 15 years there is a new generation. That would imply that people are making the new generation at 14 year olds which sounds a bit young to me. I didn’t make up these rules, so don’t blame me for this strange logic.

The logic actually comes from the 1960s when sociologists marked a time frame period between post WWII to 1960 to reflect the large number of births in the United State. Hence, the difference in time they marked in 15 years. 


Is Generation Z Poorer Than the Previous Generations?

So back to the original question is Generation Z poorer than previous generations.

In order to evaluate if Generation Z is poorer than the previous generation we are going to look at different time periods of 2023, 2008 and 1993 to see how they compare in a group of financial tests. These tests will range from unemployment levels to purchasing power.

The first one being unemployment rates.

Comparing the different unemployment rates:

1993 (6.5%)

2008 (7.6%) 

2023 (3.6%)

Now I know some people may find it hard to believe that in the present day our unemployment rate is only 3.6%. In fact, this past year on more than one occasion I have listened to a financial analysts at various conferences also expressing their skepticism of the low unemployment rate. 

So, +1 for team Generation Z

Poverty rates of 

~12.3% 1993 (Four Person family 14350) 

~13.2 2008 (Four person family $21,000) 

~11.2% 2021 (Four person family $30,000)

We see there is a greater increase in the poverty line and less people who are in poverty according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hence from viewing unemployment and poverty rates we can see that Generation Z is born into a country that relatively seems to have higher employment and lower poverty rates that prior generations.


Does Generation Z Have Greater Purchasing Power?

Let’s look at 3 major purchases that many US Americans will make at some point in their lives. 

Car, House and College.

Average used car in 1993 $7,335 (source)

Average used car in 2008 ~$7,986 (source

Average used car in 2023 ~$26,969 (source

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for new and used motor vehicles are 38.91% higher in 2023 versus 1993

Mainly due to supply chain issues and inflation effectively carrying out supply and demand.

-1 for team Generation Z

Now let’s compare house prices

Average home price in 1993 $126,500 (source)

Average home price in 2008 $180,000 (source)

Average home price in 2023 $436,800 (source)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for housing are 124.38% higher in 2023 versus 1993

Another loss -1 for team Generation Z

And of course, education:

Note, that a little over half of Americans have a college degree. 

College Degree in 1993 cost ($2,537) (Source)

College Degree in 2008 cost ($6,312) (Source)

College Degree in 2023 cost ($36,436) (source)

A third loss in a row for Generation Z.

On all three fronts with purchasing power we see that Generation Z is having a much harder time than previous generations. 

Positives to what Generation Z has versus other generations. 

More data created in the last 2 years alone in the past history. Information has never been as available as before, you can live wherever you are in the world and as long as you have wifi you can access more information you will ever be able to get through. 

So is Generation Z the poorest Generation? Based off of what we looked at today, they definitely have more challenging with purchasing power than past generations had.

Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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