Wealth inequalities persisted in 2019, according to the latest Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data released in October 2021.

Wealth is the value of assets owned minus the liabilities (debts) owed. As described in a previous report on household wealth in 2017, the new U.S. Census Bureau report and detailed tables on household wealth in 2019 show similarly wide variations across demographic and socioeconomic groups but also detail generational wealth differences for the first time.

For example, it shows that baby boomers are nearly nine times wealthier than millennials.

The SIPP’s sample size enables comparisons of the assets of many populations and groups such as low-income households and households with or without children.

 

When excluding home equity, Generation X and baby boomers had a median wealth of $48,070 and $90,060, respectively.

 

Contributors to Household Wealth

Just two assets — home equity and retirement accounts — accounted for 65.2% of households’ wealth in 2019.

Median home equity (the value of a home minus the mortgage balance) was $130,000, and the median household retirement account balance was $69,900.

While many households owned these assets, others did not: 38.7% of households did not own a home, and 41.2% of households did not have a retirement account.

Some commonly held assets made up a small portion of household wealth. In 2019, 95.4% of households had bank or credit union accounts. However, these accounts made up only 8.3% of total household wealth.

Home Ownership

Home equity did not fully account for the difference in median wealth between households that own and households that rent.

Households that owned their home had a median wealth of $305,000, substantially larger than those that rented ($4,084).

Even when home equity was excluded from total wealth, the median wealth of households that owned their home was $125,500, 30.7 times that of the median wealth of households that rented. 

Generations and Wealth

The generation in which a householder (those who owned or rented their home) was born affects household wealth.

Not surprisingly, “Generation Z,” the youngest generation with adult members (born 1997 to 2013), had less wealth than the oldest and wealthiest “Silent Generation” (born 1928 to 1945): median wealth of $3,080 compared to $253,200.

Millennials, who were between 23 and 38 years old by the end of 2019, also had less wealth compared to other older generations. Millennials had a median wealth of only $27,420, while “Generation X” (born 1965 to 1980) had $121,400 and baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) had $240,900.

When excluding home equity, Generation X and baby boomers had a median wealth of $48,070 and $90,060, respectively.