Someone Did The Math To Show Boomers Had It Easier Than Gen Z

Piggy bank, toy house and magnifying glass on a table
Unsplash | Tierra Mallorca

It's no secret at this point that it's a tough world for Gen Z. Even though the younger generation will always be hated on by those who came before, the simple fact remains that it's harder for Millennials and Gen Z to get ahead in life than it was for Baby Boomers.

But can it be proven? Heck yeah it can be proven. A Reddit user did the legwork and presented some sobering findings on the r/antiwork subreddit.

"This generation must work twice as hard for what Boomers had. Here are the real numbers."

 Man wearing a fedora with an "okay, boomer" shirt
Unsplash | Giacomo Lucarini

Redditor u/MikeTheBard explains that he compared three years: 1972, the year he was born; 1992, the year he graduated from college; and today: 2022. He's broken the numbers down in a spreadsheet, but goes in-depth in his post.

Let's compare some simple cost of living stuff.

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Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

To begin, he looks at the basic numbers of survival: minimum wage, average rent, and the cost of college. In 1972, minimum wage was $1.60, average rent was $108 and the cost of college was $428. In 1992, those numbers were $4.25, $447, and $2,349 respectively. In 2022, we're looking at $7.25, $1,326, and $10,338.

What does it mean?

"For rent" sign in a window
Unsplash | Aaron Sousa

It's tough to crunch numbers while factoring in inflation, but the long and short of it is that cost of living has gone way up.

In 1972, it would take 68 hours of working at minimum wage to afford rent. That number was up to 105 hours in 1992, and is at 183 hours in 2022.

Likewise, to afford college in 1972, a student would have to work 268 hours. But in 2022, they'll have to work 1,426 hours. That's more than 35 weeks of full-time work, leaving under 17 weeks free to, y'know, go to college.

Here's another way to look at it.

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Unsplash | Pang Yuhao

"[In 1972], an 18-year-old could literally pay for a year's worth of college by working part-time, 15 hours a week over the summer," wrote u/MikeTheBard. "Doing the bare minimum and working 40 hours a week for minimum wage, you could afford your own apartment, basic needs and a car. If you put in some effort and budgeted well, you could ALSO put yourself through school while supporting yourself working 30 hours a week."

Things were a bit tougher for Generation X.

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Unsplash | Tierra Mallorca

For those who finished high school and started college in the early '90s, things weren't as easy.

"If you lived at home, you could work full-time over the summer to pay for college," he wrote. "That was a pretty comfortable pace, actually: doing school full-time for 9 months, and working full-time for another 3. If you lived on your own, though, you probably couldn't do college without a loan."

Gen Z? Forget it.

Woman holding her head
Unsplash | Jez Timms

"Today, if you're making minimum wage, it takes 183 hours to pay the average rent for the month," he wrote. "Reminder that this whole time we've been assuming 40 hour work weeks: 160 hours a month. I'm just going to stop right there so we're [absolutely] clear about this."

The numbers are ridiculous.

Calculator placed on a file folder
Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

Mike writes that a boomer making minimum wage would need to allocate a third of their income to pay for a one-bedroom apartment. Gen X would need two thirds to pay for one, while Gen Z would need — you guessed it — their entire paycheck just to come up a little bit short of their full rent.

It makes college seem unattainable, and maybe it is.

A college study hall
Unsplash | Roel Dierckens

"At minimum wage, [Gen Z] will need to work 1,426 hours to pay for a year of public college," Mike wrote. "That's 2/3 of a full-time income. If you work 30 hours a week, and do school full-time, you can put yourself through school — but only if you can live at home for free, don't need a car, and have parents who pay for your food and healthcare. It is simply impossible to do so on your own without taking out loans equal to your entire full-time pay."

The numbers are sobering.

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Unsplash | Bhuwan Bansal

"The bottom line is this: working a full-time minimum wage job, a Boomer could easily support themselves and put themselves through school. Gen X could still do this, but it took hard work and sacrifice. Gen Z, with that same hard work and sacrifice, can do one or the other, but not both."

What about millennials?

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Unsplash | Creative Christians

Mike's analysis largely skips over millennials, but a commenter chimed in with their experience: "I remember working tons of overtime in the early to mid 2010s and you felt like it actually made a difference," they wrote. "Today it feels more like throwing a bucket of water into an ocean."

It's a depressing analysis.

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Unsplash | Towfiqu barbhuiya

Mike's numbers might seem hopeless, but his post has picked up traction after being featured in Newsweek.

Does that mean it's going to lead to widespread societal change? Well, probably not. But it does help bring more attention to an issue that's affecting virtually all younger people.

Just in case you doubt the numbers, he brought the receipts.

Pen resting on sheet of calculations
Unsplash | Antoine Dautry

Towards the bottom of the post, you can see where Mike linked to the sources for his numbers.

Obviously, this stuff varies as cost of living can change wildly from location to location. Still, it's virtually impossible to make the claim that Gen Z has it easy by any economic metric.

Have you experienced this crunch?

Piggy bank, toy house and magnifying glass on a table
Unsplash | Tierra Mallorca

It feels like standards of living peaked with the Boomer generation and have been sliding back down ever since. How has this affected you? Let us know what your experience has been like in the comments section.