The Real Reasons Under 30s Are Poorer Than Ever

You probably don't need telling that it's a difficult time, financially, to be a young person in the UK. You may be bobbing from one unpaid internship to the next, paying through the nose for a dingy room in London's zone 5 and seeing a huge chunk of your pitiful income swallowed by student loan repayments. We feel you.

But the cause of your monetary malaise might not be as obvious as you think.

According to new research for a Labour-backed inquiry into the housing crisis, the Redfern Review, the reason you're so poor is that house prices are rising faster than incomes because of a lack of available housing, and our incomes have fallen due to low pay and student debt.

The result is a drop in home ownership, which is at its lowest for 29 years, and the decline is starkest among 25- to 34-year olds – just 37% of whom owned property in 2015 compared with 59% in 2003.

However, that's not all. Financial journalist Hamish McRae, writing in The Independent, argues there are three underlying, worldwide trends that are also contributing to our poor financial position.

The first is a wider move away from owner-occupation. Just 63% of homes in the UK are now owned, compared with 69% in 2001, the Redfern Review found, and this downward trend is also happening in the U.S. and the rest of Europe.

Why? Obviously the astronomical cost of housing is partly to blame, but McRae says another reason is the rise of immigration from Europe in the last five years. Immigrants coming to the UK to work may not want to be tied down by buying a property in a foreign country. In the U.S., young people are increasingly mobile and gravitate to the coasts for work, but they may not want to put down roots there.

This flexibility among young people is linked to other social changes, such as the acceptability of starting families later, the rise of self-employment and people being less likely to feel tied down by a partner.

A second, less obvious, reason why we're all so poor is asset inflation, says McRae. The value of assets, such as housing, stocks and shares, has also increased in recent years, leading to greater wealth inequality. (If you already owned loads of property, you're laughing, basically.)

This rise in house prices hasn't been spread evenly, though, with desirable cities like London and New York becoming exceedingly expensive, while less sought-after areas relatively cheap. It's clear, therefore, that more homes need to be built in these in-demand areas, McRae says.

The third reason we're suffering financially is the shift in incomes between the young and old. The rise of unpaid internships, which many of us now must endure before we get entry-level jobs, has dragged down the amount we earn at the later stages of our careers, McRae argues.

So, even when we become established in our careers we're earning less than our older peers who were never expected to work for free. Great. The 18-to-30s have seen the biggest drop in their incomes than any other group and we now earn less than our peers did when they were at our age 15 years ago.

It's a complicated picture, but one thing's clear: there simply aren't enough homes and someone needs to get building more. Fast.

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