IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Younger people could be worse off than their parents’ generation for their whole lives

21 November 2018

The Millennial Generation (those aged between 19 and 37) could be worse off than their parents’ generation over their entire life course, attendees at a UCL Institute of Education (IOE) research centre conference have heard.

People from different generations holding hands

The opening keynote, delivered by IOE academic Professor Andy Green, formed part of the Centre for Learning and Life Chances (LLAKES) conference ‘Young Adults, Inequality and the Generational Divide: Learning and Life Chances in an Era of Uncertainty’.

Professor Green explored evidence on education, employment, welfare and housing and examined how intergenerational inequalities should be best understood. One theory is that there are widening inequalities in living standards within and between age groups, while another suggests an absolute generational decline for today's young people compared with their parents at the same age.

If assessed by net household income after housing costs, then a life time generational decline is likely in the UK and several other European countries.

Professor Green referred to modelling by economists, such as LLAKES’ Martin Weale, which predicts that younger UK generations will have to pay higher taxes to support the public costs of an ageing population, but will receive inferior health care and pensions when they are old. Fewer will be able to own their own homes, and they will have paid much more for less.

However, patterns vary depending on which life domain is examined: in education, there has been generational progress in terms of greater access, higher overall levels of qualification and wider educational opportunities, although the value of these qualifications on the labour market has declined. Additionally, core skills have not improved between generations in the UK, with inequality in opportunities for skills actually much higher in the younger generation.

In employment, there is evidence of widening inequality within and between age groups in both earnings and work security. Although it is too early to tell whether young adults' earnings will catch up with those of their parents' generation over the life course.

The LLAKES conference also included talks by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Professor Francis Green (IOE), Professor Kate Pickett (University of York) and Sir John Curtis (University of Strathclyde). They dealt with a range of topics, including private schools, improving opportunities and life chances for young people through policy, young people and Brexit, and wellbeing in different societies. 

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Rowan Walker, UCL Media Relations 
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