These charts track the difference in income, tuition, housing prices and student loans between 1976 and the years after that.

Here’s the quick takeaway: At no point was it better to have been born after 1976.

You have to go back to 1998 to find any indicator register as “better” than in 1976. And even that “better” approaches an exaggeration: an average housing price that, at $192,929 beats 1976 by $71 in 2010 dollars.

More recently, the cost of tuition and housing has ballooned.

Here are some charts in a different style: Income is down for young people.

Housing prices are up.

And so are tuition costs. Good luck out there.

2014-11-13

If You Graduated After 1976, You Are Getting Screwed By The Economy

This infographic shows the hard truth for anyone in their late 30s or younger: Everything has been more difficult for you, and it’s just getting worse.

The 1970s have strangely become, in retrospect, a golden era, at least for economists. In large part that’s because of what happened ever since to the average American’s share of subsequent economic growth, as documented by a host of indicators. In the 1970s, median income and economic growth began to diverge, the income share of the top 10% started to steadily increase, and the United States generally became a more income unequal place.

But that story isn’t as uniquely American as you might think. An interactive graphic from the Globe and Mail tracks a number of indicators for Canada to answer the question: Who had it worse? You, or the graduating class of 1976? If you graduated after 1976, the answer is, with very few caveats: You do.

The interactive graphic lets you track a few key indicators for a college-graduate-age Canadian: income, tuition, housing prices, and student loans. The results are sobering. Since 1976, average tuition has gone up nearly ninefold. Only student loans borrowed through the government are tracked, but even these are up more than 20%.

You have to go back to 1998 to find any indicator register as "better" than in 1976. And even that "better" approaches an exaggeration: an average housing price that, at $192,929 beats 1976 by $71 in 2010 dollars. That glimmer of affordability was followed by two decades of steady increases, to the point that now there is widespread concern over a possible housing bubble.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the picture, though, is in median income for 20- to 24-year-olds. In 2010 dollars, it fell like a rock in the recession of the early 1980s, from $22,700 in 1981 to $16,600 in 1983 and has remained essentially stagnant ever since.

As Rob Carrick writes in the accompanying column: "Prosperity has left young adults in the dust."

"In a way, it was easier for young people in the past than it is now," [Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets] said. "Basically, you’re running faster just to stay in the same place today."

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17 Comments

  • Truelitistnot

    Well, anyone under 50 knows they are being screwed whether in Canada, the US or the UK/EU.  Wages are completely stagnate, actually negative for decades if you factor in inflation all the while cost of living has skyrocketed over those decades.  The system is currently in partial collapse, the complete collapse in to 3rd world standards and living will come in another 10 years or so.  Then the US will basically be pretty much ghettoized by then; a lot of it already is anyway.  Hello taco lifestyle here we come; totally screwed up health care, social security vaporizing, wages virtually worthless, inflation out of control; time to move to Asia.

  • Abe

    As others have pointed out, the author's premise is exceptionally flawed. The 20-24 age group is--by-and-large--still in college. And many of those not in college during that time of their lives are probably working low-wage jobs. In fact, even after graduation, some of my peers worked low-wage jobs just so they could continue living the "care-free" life (skiing, partying, living with their folks, etc.). 

    So if more 20-24 year olds are going to college than we'd expect to see the average wage for the group decline: $earned by all 20-24 year-olds / (number of 20-24 year-olds employed + number of 20-24 year olds in college) = average earnings for 20-24 year olds. Thus, if the amount earned by the group falls because more of the group is going to college then the average will fall too. 

  • BigSuprise

    Ummm should this really come as a suprise? The generation that strongly supports socialism over capitalism is making less money than they use to...seems appropriate.

  • Jenifer

    Our generation isn't making less money than we used to, we are making less money than your generation and the divide of how well off we are compared to how well off the Baby Boomers are is increasing.  Why don't you and your generation retire already and let us try things our way for once?  You all are a bunch of selfish narcissists going around thinking you deserve more than us.  We want to help ourselves and future generations.

  • Heka

    The generation that has had at most 2 presidential elections to vote in is responsible for a 30 year downward slide?

  • Crimson_7

    I think for the lower graph to be relevant, the supply of a graph showing percentage of younger individuals attending college would be vital.  If (as I understand is the case) the percentage of individuals attending college increased significantly from the 70's then the author's conclusion "you are getting screwed by the economy" could very well be false.  If a higher percentage of talented individuals age 20-24 are in college, it is natural that those remaining in the workforce would see a reduced average income.  The fact (per the graph) that the median income for all ages actually sees a slight increase over time would only serve to bear that interpretation out.

  • sdinfoserv

    "late 30's or graduated after 1976?" Your math doesn't work.  If you graduated in '76 you are (c) 55 years old.  You should say anyone under 50 is getting screwed.
    AND we won't get social security.

    BTW... old news.  We're living it. we know it.

  • handi45

    My parents, born in the 1930's raised 5 kids (not on a farm) on a single income. Further, that single income was, for a large part of my youth, a Military pay rate. My wife and I (I'm now 50) stopped at 2 kids because to have more would have been follishness from a financial standpoint, and we both worked full time for most of the kid's lives. So the report does not reveal a lot of new information.

    Further, it ignores the vastly greater tax burden on working families today. My Father paid about 10% of his income in taxes, while my burden, when ALL taxes and fees are added is at least 15% and probably more.

    The issue with the graphics is that "median income" is determined by household, and the size/makeup of the term "household" has been changing as well. In 1976 a household much more often represented more working adults than it does now. The percentage of single parent 'households' was far smaller, and far more single parent households today are on public assistance rather than having a working parent. This is why on static graphs it looks like the gap between "rich" and "poor" appears to be widening. It also only looks at generic groups. But if you follow a 'household' over time, it is EXTREMELY rare that it's income remains static over time. 90% will rise in income significantly over time as the earners add expertise, knowledge and longevity to their work value.

    In addition, the median income is highly skewed by the greater number of baby boomers who are retired. Many of them have signifigant assests, but those are not counted as income. Their income is counted as the return they take from those assets, which is typically 8-12% of the asset value.

  • sdinfoserv

    Look at the size house your parents and grand parents had vs your house.  A 900sqft house in the 50's was a castle. 
    You have 2+ cars.  Your parents were luck to have 1.  Your grandparents may not have had them.
    Did your parents have multiple TV's, stereo's, computers?
    No - they didnt.   All these things cost money.  Things you consider a "need" that didn't cross their mind.
     Thus the standard of living is way differnt than your grandparents generation. Let alone your great grand parents who may have lived in a sod house.

  • Jgang06

    What the hell is on the y axis of the graph? If I wanted to just quickly look at the graph (without reading the article) its impossible to figure out. 

  • mttorley

    born or graduated?  This article is at best misleading, but likely poorly written with little cohesion.

  • Yakbob

    Born after 1976, or graduated after 1976?
    Hard to imagine a 7 year old taking advantage of the cheap Canadian housing market in 1983.