By Anne Price, President
From Charlottesville to Hurricane Harvey to removing DACA, this past month has repeatedly reinforced one of the primary drivers of Insight’s work — the absolute necessity of focusing on the needs of communities who are almost never included in our policymaking and are almost always left short changed. We must remain vigilant in our fight to ensure the voices and needs of people of color, immigrants, low-income communities and women are front and center.
This includes the often overlooked women of Generation X, now in their 50s.
Women are often the glue that holds families and communities together, too frequently sacrificing their own financial stability and emotional well-being for their family and friends. Increasingly, the economic security of today’s families rest on the shoulders of women. Two thirds of mothers play a significant role in the financial well-being of their families. Yet women are paid less, are crowded into certain occupations, and work in jobs that lack wealth escalators, consequentially hurting families and communities.
The oldest Gen-Xers, those born in the mid-1960s who are now in their early 50s, have suffered the brunt of three economic downturns: the recessions of the early 1990s and early 2000s, and, worst of all, the Great Recession of 2008. As a result, this generation has much higher debt than previous ones. As shown in this report, the average American born in 1970 has roughly 60 percent more debt than someone born in 1956. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis released a brief showing that a Gen Xer born in 1970 (age 44) had an average of $142,077 in debt in 2014 compared to $88,553 of a baby-boomer at the same age.
New research shows that many Americans in this age group are being sandwiched — balancing caring for their own needs and saving for their retirement, while supporting their adult children, other siblings, and aging parents. For example, a recent study by Merrill Lynch reveals that nearly half of Americans, age 50 or older, say they’re willing to overextend themselves financially to give their children a more comfortable life.
For communities of color, this value of making economic sacrifices for your own is especially prevalent, and women of color in this generation are just one financial crisis or job loss away from catastrophe.
The Insight Center’s recent research on women, race, and wealth illustrates that racial wealth inequities are highest in the run up to retirement age. For example, married, white women in their 50s without a bachelor’s degree have $155,000 in median wealth, while their Black counterparts only have $38,000. Married, white women in their 50s with a bachelor’s degree have over twice the wealth of college-educated Black women.
The financial and emotional stability of families are being compromised as we continue to ignore this critical generation of women, particularly women of color. Given their low levels of wealth and the increasing need to care for and financially support two generations, this group of women are being asked to shoulder incredible responsibilities.