In the past few weeks, two stories caught my attention. One decried the growing wealth gap between the young and old in America. The other highlighted the growing difference between older and younger Americans on issues such as social values and morality.
Should we be surprised by either of these stories?
I think not.
Let’s look at the wealth gap first. I will get to the Social Values and Morality Gap in Part 2.
A report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau said the wealth gap between younger and older Americans has increased to the widest on record, worsened by a prolonged economic downturn that has wiped out job opportunities for young adults and saddled them with housing, credit card, and college debt.
The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, the report said, adding that the gap in wealth is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the 10-to-1 disparity a quarter-century ago, after adjusting for inflation.
Why is this? Part of it is caused by the economic downturn, which has hit young adults particularly hard. As I saw when I was a Dean at the University of Illinois, more young people are pursuing college or advanced degrees, taking on debt as they wait for the job market to recover. Others are struggling to pay mortgage costs on homes now worth less than when they were bought in the housing boom.
But that is not the whole story. All of us have gone through hard times at one point or another. I can recall when mortgage interest rates were 19 percent and buying a house was simply out of the question. I can recall
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