Gen X may have taken biggest hit in economic downturn

June 18, 2012 at 1:19 PM ET

U.S. Census Bureau /
Between 2005 and 2010, Generation X saw the biggest percentage decline in median household net worth.

Almost everyone in America has good reason to throw a little pity party whenever they think about what the economic turmoil of recent years has done to their financial situation. A government report released Monday finds that the 35- to 44-year-old members of Generation X may have the most cause to feel sorry for themselves.

The Census Bureau study found that between 2005 and 2010, households led by 35- to 44-year-olds saw the biggest percent decline in median household net worth. For those households, median net worth declined 59 percent, from $80,521 in 2005 to $33,200 in 2010, adjusted in constant 2010 dollars.

In terms of actual dollars lost, 45- to 54-year-olds took the biggest hit. For households in that age range, median net worth declined by $54,881, to $90,434. That’s a 38 percent drop from 2005, calculated in 2010 dollars.

Overall, the study found that median household net worth in the United States declined by 35 percent between 2005 and 2010, to $66,740. The housing bust and stock market declines were mainly to blame for the drop.

The Census report is based on the annual Survey of Income and Program Participation, which takes a detailed look at the financial situation of Americans from all walks of life. The survey uses the renter or owner of record in each household to determine what age group the household falls into.

The Census data comes a week after the Federal Reserve released a separate survey showing that the median net worth of the American family dropped 39 percent from about $126,000 in 2007 to $77,000 in 2010.

The Census study looks at a slightly longer period and offers detailed breakdown by race, age, education level and region. But the two studies come to the same sobering conclusion: We’ve lost a lot of economic ground in recent years, and it will take a long time to work our way back.

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