Economist Bill Emmons: It’s a Lot Tougher To Be Young These Days

Posted September 25, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Economist Bill Emmons

In America today…

  • Nearly 30% of all people and 40% of all kids live in low-income households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Many lower-income working families and working families of color have no money saved in retirement accounts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Nearly 19% of all children have experienced food insecurity, which means that there wasn’t enough food for every person in their home, according to the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

These facts portray an America that Bill Emmons knows well.

Emmons is the lead economist with the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In this role, he studies household finances and examines how a family’s financial well-being relates to the broader economy.

In a new podcast episode, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Lisa Hamilton chats with Emmons about household income and wealth and the roles that race, age and education play in shaping family savings, debts and assets. Emmons also explains how changes in the economy — coupled with rising education costs and a shift toward defined contribution retirement plans — have made it harder for young adults and families to build wealth in America today.

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What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How wealth differs from income.
  • The roles that race, age and education play in shaping family stability.
  • The three markers of struggling families.
  • Who does and doesn’t save for retirement.
  • The types of debt that are shaping family finances today.

Conversation Clips

In Bill Emmons’s own words…

“Income is what you earn. Wealth is what you earn minus what you owe. They're both becoming more unequal.”

“There are very clear differences along racial and ethnic lines in all of the dimensions we're talking about — income, wealth, access to pensions, other savings and home ownership.”

“Only about half of Americans regularly save, and people with more education are more likely to save.”

“We've just been through this very severe recession, and the scarring effects of that are still evident in young people.”

“The best time to be born was about 1940… the worst time to be born is about 1970.”

About the Casey Foundation Podcast

CaseyCast is a regular podcast produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and hosted by its executive vice president and chief program officer, Lisa Hamilton. Each episode features Hamilton talking with a new expert about how we can build a brighter future for kids, families and communities.

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