Report Offers 'Bleak Picture' as Rising Inequality and Soaring Costs Drive Young People Out of Global Middle Class

Millennials are major drivers of world economies, yet the world’s wealthiest countries are failing to ensure that people in their 20s and 30s are able to live the comfortable, middle-class lives many of their parents and grandparents enjoyed at the same age.

A report released by the OECD Wednesday shows how slowed or halted income growth as well as the rapidly growing costs of education and housing are keeping young people out of the middle class as they attempt to begin their adult lives, buy homes, and raise families.

“Our analysis delivers a bleak picture and a call for action,” said Gabriela Ramos, chief of staff for the OECD, in a statement. “The middle class is at the core of a cohesive, thriving society. We need to address their concerns regarding living costs, fairness, and uncertainty.”

The global organization examined its 36 member countries—including the U.S., the U.K., and Mexico—as well as South Africa, Russia, China, and Brazil for its report “Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class.”

As every generation since the post-World War II baby boom has seen the middle class shrink in wealthy countries around the world, millennials are now being shut out of the middle class, which the OECD defines as incomes between 75 and 200 percent of a country’s median household income.

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Seventy percent of baby boomers were solidly middle class while in their 20s, compared with only 60 percent of millennials—the generation which the OECD defines as having birth years between 1980 and 2000—are middle class. In the U.S., just 53 percent of millennials are earning enough to be considered part of the middle class.

“The baby boom generation enjoyed more stable jobs during their working life than younger generations as well as well-developed pension systems,” the report reads.