OK, Gen Z-ers

The New York Times informs me that ok boomer is the latest meme from disaffected members of Generation Z. You can probably guess what this is generally about, but read the whole piece if you want the details. Clearly, Gen Z has not yet taken my advice that we should all gang up against the Silent Generation instead of attacking each other.

In any case, here’s the basic gripe:

“Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them,” said Joshua Citarella, 32, a researcher who studies online communities. Teenagers today find themselves, he said, with “three major crises all coming to a head at the Gen Z moment.”

“Essentials are more expensive than ever before, we pay 50 percent of our income to rent, no one has health insurance,” said Mr. Citarella.

One of the great things about living in a modern country is that there are actual statistics about these things collected regularly by the federal government. Let’s see what those statistics have to say about these three claims:

  • “Essentials” is a slippery concept, but with rent taken as a separate item I figure this means food, clothing, and transportation. Here’s how those things pencil out over the past few decades:
  • Rent is easier. According to the most recent edition of the Consumer Expenditure Index, the average income of those under 25 is $32,009 and their average rent is $6,349. That’s 20 percent.
  • The CDC tracks health insurance for those aged 19-25. In 2017, 85 percent of this age group was insured.

In other words, none of these claims is true. There is certainly a particular group of highly vocal Gen Z folks who insist on living in very expensive urban areas and are forced to pay 50 percent of their income in rent. But it’s a small segment, even if it’s a loud one.

“Essentials,” by contrast, are easier. They’ve done nothing but get cheaper over the years. And Obamacare has cut the uninsured share of young people in half.

I suppose the answer to all this is ok boomer. Fair enough. But the fact remains that Gen Z-ers just aren’t as bad off as they like to think they are.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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