An intergenerational audit for the UK

Published on Intergenerational Centre

Our Intergenerational audit for the UK, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, takes stock of generational living standards differences in Britain according to the latest data. It does this by considering living standards within four domains:

  • Jobs, skills and pay
  • Housing costs and security
  • Taxes, benefits and household income
  • Wealth and assets.

In each of these domains, we first assess the different paths of cohort living standards, with a particular focus on the drivers of change over the most recent couple of years. We then zero in on one area where we dig deeper – providing novel ‘spotlight’ analysis that seeks to stay on the pulse of what’s changing in Britain today, and move research and policy debates forward accordingly.

The latest changes bring some good news for cohort-on-cohort living standards improvements. This includes the strongest pay performance for those in their 20s; an uptick in home ownership and a reduction in housing-cost-to income ratios for those aged under 30; a reversal at recent fiscal events of some welfare cuts that mainly affect younger families; and rising pension contribution rates boosting saving for younger families in particular. Cyclical bounce back and the release of pent-up demand following the crisis have played a role here, as have policy choices.

However, there are long-standing headwinds to generational living standards progress sitting behind this good news. Non-housing consumption has been persistently weak for young and even prime-age adults, with the money they do spend increasingly swallowed by essentials. The fundamentals of high house prices mean that home ownership declines for young people are unlikely to be reversed in any significant way. And neither the youth home ownership uptick nor rising pension contributions can counteract the larger impact of passive wealth increases for those who have defined benefit pensions or were already home owners.

As well as what it feels like to progress into and through adulthood in Britain today, this report provides new insights into living standards differences at older ages. From employment for those approaching state pension age; to a reduction in elderly parents living with their adult children; to the much lower levels of wealth held by women than men in older cohorts, we provide rich detail on experiences across all cohorts, and within them too.