Still wondering, "Where's my recovery?" More jobs and low inflation aren't enough.

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If you’re age 75 or older, congratulations. New data from the Federal Reserve show that your cohort is the only one to be better off since the Great Recession. Households headed by younger baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials are still poorer in median net worth, adjusted for inflation, than they were in 2007.

Net worth is a household’s assets minus its liabilities. Median is the midpoint, so half of all households fall above or below the numbers.

Meanwhile, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the best-off continued to do better. In 1989, the top 1 percent held less than 30 percent of all wealth. In 2016, it held 38.6 percent. The share of the bottom 90 percent has been falling for more than 25 years.

The first big problem hitting most households comes from the aftermath of the housing crash. In most cases, their median home values are lower than before the downturn, and  this is usually the most valuable asset for a household. Those households headed by someone age 45 to 54 saw an astounding drop of more than $66,000 in median home value between 2007 and 2016. Only those 75 and older saw a slight gain.

Also, home ownership has dropped for every group except the oldest.

The second problem is that most households haven’t benefited greatly from the bull market in stocks (another reason why the Dow is not a good measure of economic well-being). The 75-and-older cohort saw added wealth because it was most likely to have pensions and own stocks directly. The younger boomers and older Xers gained from pooled investments such as mutual funds. The catch: Fewer households in general own those vehicles.

Finally, debt. Although mortgage debt is lower, student debt is higher. It especially affects those younger than 54.

These are broad-brush strokes, of course. Plenty of older households can’t retire because they’re too poor, and some younger households hit the tech jackpot. But this is another sign of the stresses on the middle class and growing inequality. Tax cuts won’t fix it.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Prayers for El Faro

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Won’t keep things shipshape