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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Economic Power?

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The Generational Power Index
The Generational Power Index
Introducing our new index, which ranks U.S. generations on their economic, political, and cultural influence.

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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Economic Power?

In our inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI) 2021, we’ve ranked generations on how much power and influence they hold in American society.

And when it comes to money and economic power, our research has concluded that Baby Boomers, those between the ages of 57-75, have more influence than Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z combined.

GenerationEconomic Power Share
Baby Boomers43.4%
Gen X26.1%
Silent17.6%
Millennials9.7%
Gen Z3.3%

These findings may seem intuitive, but what exactly contributes to economic power? To find out, let’s take a closer look at the GPI’s underlying variables.

The Building Blocks of Economic Power

Our starting point was to define the age ranges of each generation:

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

Using these ranges as a framework, we then calculated our four underlying variables of economic power. Here’s what the distribution within each one looked like:

economic power category breakdown

The earnings variable represents the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in the U.S., and was the most evenly distributed of the four variables. Gen Z had the lowest median weekly earnings ($614), while Gen X had the highest ($1,103).

Boomers established a clear lead in the second variable, net worth, which represents each generation’s share of overall U.S. wealth. As it turns out, Boomers hold 53% of all wealth in the country—more than all other generations combined.

The third variable captures each generation’s share of billionaire wealth, and was dominated by Boomers and the Silent Gen. We calculated this variable by starting with the top 1,000 billionaires globally, then filtering for Americans only.

The final variable, business leaders, is based on two underlying metrics: the generational share of both S&P 500 CEOs and small business owners. This enabled us to capture data from two sides of the business spectrum to see who holds power there.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

Shifting Dynamics in Economic Power

America’s wealth distribution is not stagnant, meaning the balance of economic power shifts with each passing year. Keeping this in mind, here are two of the most compelling trends that we discovered while analyzing data for the GPI report.

1. Younger Generations Show Sluggish Growth

The following chart illustrates each generation’s share of household wealth over time.

GPI Share of US household wealth

It makes sense that Baby Boomers would hold the most wealth of any generation. They have had more time to accumulate assets, and the population of Boomers is roughly three times higher than that of the Silent Generation.

What’s more interesting, however, is the stark difference in wealth trajectories between Boomers and younger generations.

While Boomers entered the workforce in a prosperous post-WWII era, Millennials and Gen Z have either started their careers in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis, or in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To put it in perspective, when Baby Boomers were as old as today’s Millennials in 1989, they held 21.3% of U.S. wealth. That’s more than four times higher than what Millennials hold now.

2. Small Business: The 99.9%

America’s small businesses may not have the same scale as global corporations like Apple or Amazon, but they are an incredibly important part of the U.S. economy.

In fact, small businesses make up 99.9% of all U.S. companies, and employ one-third of the nation’s workforce.

Here is who runs small businesses, from a generational perspective:

GPI Share of Small Business Ownership

The 13% share held by Millennials may not sound too impressive, but it is one of the cohort’s strongest areas for economic power.

Looking forward, it seems entrepreneurship will grow into an area of strength for both Millennials and Gen Z, who are 188% more likely to want to create a side business compared to older generations.

Combine this with the fact that e-commerce adoption has been accelerating even faster than expected due to the pandemic, and it’s easy to see how younger, more tech-savvy generations could quickly expand their influence.

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Demographics

Ranked: Countries Where Youth are the Most Unhappy, Relative to Older Generations

Conventional wisdom says that young adults (those below 30) tend to be the happiest demographic—but this is not true for these countries.

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Countries with the Biggest Happiness Gaps Between Generations

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” — Tom Bodett

Measuring happiness is tricky business, more so when taking into account how different regions, cultures, and faiths define it. Nevertheless, the World Happiness Report attempts to distill being happy into a single score out of 10, and then ranks countries by their average score.

We’ve visualized the high-level findings from the latest happiness report in this series of maps. However, the report also dives deeper into other significant trends in the data, such as a growing disparity in happiness between age groups within countries themselves.

In the chart above, we list countries by the biggest gaps in happiness ranks between young adults (<30) and older adults (60+). A higher number indicates a larger gap, and that the youth are far unhappier than their older counterparts.

Where are Youth Unhappier than Older Adults?

Mauritius ranks first on this list, with a massive 57 place gap between older adult and youth happiness. The 1.26 million-inhabited island nation briefly reached high income status in 2020, but the pandemic hit hard, hurting its key tourism sector, and affecting jobs.

The country’s youth unemployment rate spiked to close to 25% that year, but has since been on the decline. Like residents on many similarly-populated islands, the younger demographic often moves abroad in search of more opportunities.

RankCountryYouth Happiness RankOlder Adult
Happiness Rank
Happiness Gap
1🇲🇺 Mauritius852857
2🇺🇸 U.S.621052
3🇨🇦 Canada58850
4🇺🇿 Uzbekistan712249
5🇨🇳 China793049
6🇯🇵 Japan733637
7🇲🇳 Mongolia865333
8🇩🇿 Algeria936231
9🇱🇾 Libya805030
10🇸🇬 Singapore542628
11🇰🇿 Kazakhstan694227
12🇵🇭 Philippines704327
13🇱🇦 Laos1047727
14🇩🇪 Germany472126
15🇪🇸 Spain552926
16🇲🇹 Malta573126
17🇧🇭 Bahrain775126
18🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan815526
19🇲🇷 Mauritania1199326
20🇹🇩 Chad1209426

Conventional wisdom says, and data somewhat correlates, that young adults (those below 30) tend to be the happiest demographic. Happiness then decreases through middle age and starts increasing around 60. However, the above countries are digressing from the pattern, with older generations being much happier than young adults.

That older generations are happier, by itself, is not a bad thing. However, that younger adults are so much unhappier in the same country can point to several unique stresses that those aged below 30 are facing.

For example, in the U.S. and Canada—both near the top of this list—many young adults feel like they have been priced out of owning a home: a once key metric of success.

Climate anxieties are also high, with worries about the future of the world they’ll inhabit. Finally, persistent economic inequities are also weighing on the younger generation, with many in that cohort feeling like they will never be able to afford to retire.

All of this comes alongside a rising loneliness epidemic, where those aged 18–25 report much higher rates of loneliness than the general population.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The World Happiness Report which leverages data from the Gallup World Poll.

Methodology: A nationally representative group of approximately 1,000 people per country are asked to evaluate their life on a scale of 0–10. Scores are averaged across generations per country over three years. Countries are ranked by their scores out of 10.

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