Should we envy Americans? There are the wonderful national parks, but also the widely available firearms. Purely on the economics, though, millennials on this side of the Atlantic should be green-eyed.
Children of the 1980s and 1990s in the UK and US were caught out as the financial crisis scuppered the economy just as many started work: generational progress ground to a halt as millennials’ pay took a step down from the levels their predecessors enjoyed at the same age. But that was 15 years ago – some of those “kids” are hitting their 30s and 40s, with children and wrinkles emerging. How are they faring today?
US millennials have staged a recovery – the incomes of those in their early 30s today are 21% higher than those of their predecessors at the same age in 2007. Sadly, new Resolution Foundation research finds the same can’t be said for their British peers, who still have lower incomes today than 30-somethings in pre-financial crisis Britain. The typical weekly pay of graduates aged 30 to 34 fell by a staggering 16% between 2007 and 2023.
Behind the US millennials’ recovery sits an economy that has done some growing (US incomes grew 17% between 2007 and 2021 v 2% in the UK), with that growth being youth friendly (millennials have seen the strongest income growth in the US v below average in the UK). Far from helping, policy has reinforced the problem in the UK: tax and benefit changes post-2010 have left non-pensioners more than £2,200 a year worse off compared with just £200 for pensioners.
Jeremy Hunt would be repeating this mistake if he increases pensions by more than working-age benefits in this week’s autumn statement. Too often, Britain is no country for young men, or women.
• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org