Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A young protester at a demonstration by France's Yellow Vest movement in March. The protests partially stemmed out of anger over economic inequality in France. (Photo: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)

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

"It looks less and less like millennials are special snowflakes, and more and more like they're caught up in broader economic forces that are squeezing out the middle class."

Julia Conley

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.

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.

While millennials in the U.S. struggle to pay off $1 trillion in student loan debt and young people around the world face housing markets in which they can expect to pay at least a third of their income on a home, the top 10 percent of earners now hold nearly half the wealth in the world's wealthiest countries.

That stark inequality combined with housing costs—which defy the U.S. government's own recommendation to spend no more than 30 percent on housing—have become some of the biggest barriers to millennials hoping to join the middle class.

The OECD also found that over the past three decades, living standards for middle class families have declined considerably, suggesting that households which are considered to be middle class today likely would have been seen as struggling 30 years ago.

The organization called for a robust review of tax and benefit systems as well as "reforms in housing and education systems to make the middle-class lifestyle more accessible."

On social media, some called on the news media to give consideration to the OECD's findings as evidence that millennials are in need of major governmental action to combat the income inequality and rising housing costs which are keeping them from living as comfortably as previous generations have.

"Today the middle class looks increasingly like a boat in rocky waters. Governments must listen to people's concerns and protect and promote middle class living standards," said Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the OECD. "This will help drive economic inclusive and sustainable growth and create a more cohesive and stable social fabric."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·

'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·

Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·

'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo