Most Boomers and Silent say that younger generations today have a harder time achieving financial security than they themselves did. Millennials and Gen Xers agree wholeheartedly with this assessment, concurring by a two-to-one margin that their predecessors had it easy.
It's not just "snowflake" Millennials who think they have it harder economically than their parents did. Hardbitten Gen Xers believe that too. And, guess what? The Silent and early-wave Boomers (roughly, everyone now over age 65) agree with them.
When asked directly about their own parents, the response of each generation follows suit. Millennials and Xers say they've had a harder time; early-wave Boomers and Silent say they've had an easier time.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, adult Millennials are more than three times as likely to receive financial support from other generations than the Silent Generation (23% versus 7%). So much for the "dependent elderly" stereotype. This is a theme we've been covering for a while (see: "Over 40% of 25- to 32-Year-Olds Who Don't Live at Home Still Receive Financial Support from their Parents").
Matt Greenwald and his group, who did this survey, have lots of experience on this topic. For nearly twenty years, Greenwald has done the well-respected "Retirement Confidence Survey" for the Employment Benefit Research Institute. He even includes a fascinating question asking each generation to compare itself with its grandparents.
Interestingly, the biggest positive comparison here was made not by the Silent but by early-wave Boomers, whose own grandparents most likely belonged to the Lost Generation--wiped out in midlife by the Great Depression and left behind in old age during the American High.
The least-known takeaway from this survey is that Gen Xers feel nearly as economically aggrieved as Millennials. The big decline in upward generational mobility (relative to parents) actually occurred earlier than many think. Most of the decline affected successive Boomer birth cohorts, a point that we have often made and that was documented most recently by Harvard's Raj Chetty, whose calculations we show below.