A marked change in wealth distribution across ages could explain a lot about the current political environment on both sides of the Atlantic.
Both the US and the UK have witnessed significant shake-ups over the past decade driven largely by the right wing.
Donald Trump will contest another election in November after a first term characterised by hostility and shifts away from liberal and social values instilled by the previous administration.
His British counterpart, Boris Johnson, has led on a similar agenda, campaigning to take the country out of the European Union and solidifying his position in December with a straight-talking populist campaign.
Labour took a 43 point lead among voters aged 18-24, with the Conservative share falling eight points among this group.
Conversely, the Tories had a 47 point lead among those aged 65+, with Labour’s vote share falling by 8 points too.
The biggest change was among 35-54 year olds, who saw a three point rise in the Conservatives’ vote share and 11 point fall for Labour, representing a seven point swing from Jeremy Corbyn’s party to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
The figures chimed with the results of the referendum on EU membership which saw a stark age divide.
A survey by Lord Ashcroft of 12,369 referendum voters after they had cast their ballot suggested that the older they were, the more likely they were to have voted Leave.
Change in wealth
In the US, the Washington Post recently dubbed Millennials the “unluckiest generation in US history“, highlighting not only the extent of the wealth divide but how much it is growing.
Some political commentators have called the below data visualisation the best explanation for every electoral outcome – both sides of the Atlantic – since 2016.
Gray Kimbrough’s analysis of Federal Reserve data paints an even starker picture:
We talk about millennials lagging behind in household wealth, but I don’t think people fully comprehend how far behind they lag in building up housing wealth in particular.— Gray Kimbrough (@graykimbrough) May 22, 2020
In 2019Q4 Fed DFA data, the millennial generation holds approximately zero net real estate wealth. pic.twitter.com/w5509e2ygM
Trump and the over 50s
According to Pew research of the 2016 electorate, which gave Donald Trump and the Republicans a mandate to govern the US, just 13 per cent of validated voters in 2016 were younger than 30.
Voters in this age group reported voting for Hilary Clinton over Trump by a margin of 58 per cent to 28 per cent, with 14 per cent supporting one of the third-party candidates.
Among voters aged over 50 Trump had a clear lead in all segments.
More educated, more diverse, more vulnerable
As Andrew Van Dam notes in his Washington Post analysis, Millennials are the most educated, most diverse generation in history – but they are also the most vulnerable.
This is being compounded by recent global events, such as the financial crisis and the pandemic.
According to research from the think tank Resolution Foundation, lower-income households are using savings and borrowing more during the coronavirus lockdown, while richer families are saving more as eating out and trips abroad are banned.
Economist George Bangham noted that “pre-coronavirus Britain was marked by soaring wealth and damaging wealth gaps between households.
“These wealth divides have been exposed by the crisis. While higher-income households have built up their savings, many lower-income households have run theirs down and had to turn to high-interest credit.”
Regrettably the current political set up is least well suited to the needs of the most vulnerable, hence why the situation could get much worse before it gets better.