A Lost Generation? Young Families after the Great Recession

April 18, 2018 | St. Louis

Keynote Presentation by Lowell Ricketts

During this session, researcher Lowell R. Ricketts compared and contrasted three decades of the wealth gains and losses of typical families headed by people born between 1930 and 1989. He compared the experiences of different generations at the same stages in their life cycles, and the effects the Great Recession had on their wealth. Ricketts, lead analyst for the St. Louis Fed's Center for Household Financial Stability, also discussed the prospects of young Americans and whether they will get back on the same track of lifetime wealth accumulation established by earlier generations.

Lowell Ricketts talked about the lasting impact the Great Recession had on family wealth, the life cycle of wealth, and the difference being born in a particular decade made. Young families suffered the most during the recession and have rebounded slowly, he said. Catching up to wealth benchmarks of previous generations will be difficult for families headed by people born in the 1980s, but they do have time and high education levels on their side, he said.

Presentation (PDF)


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Welcoming Remarks by Robert Hopkins

Robert Hopkins, senior vice president and regional executive of the St. Louis Fed's Little Rock Branch, described the role of the Center for Household Financial Stability, which was launched in 2013 with a mission of research and strengthening the balance sheets of struggling American families. Hopkins also introduced center Director Ray Boshara.

Introduction by Ray Boshara

Ray Boshara, director of the Center for Household Financial Stability, talked about the center and some of its recent research, including the Demographics of Wealth reports. He said that research has shown that generational wealth gaps are getting bigger because younger people aren’t doing as well as their parents, rather than the other way around. In addition, someone who is younger, less educated and nonwhite was likely to have lost wealth during the Great Recession and to not have recovered it since then. Boshara introduced Ricketts, lead analyst at the center.

Audience Q&A

After Ricketts' presentation, Boshara led a panel discussion with Ricketts and William R. Emmons, lead economist for the Center for Household Financial Stability. Emmons said other demographics, such as race and education levels, have an effect on wealth. The panel responded to audience questions and comments, including a remark from a woman born in the 1980s who said that the recession deeply affected her group’s life decisions and definitions of wealth; and questions about whether family structure has an effect on wealth; what the definition of “middle-class” would be; and whether the group born in the 1930s and 1940s were affected by high unionization during their peak earning years.


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