Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

An interesting post from Felix Salmon, in which he writes :

an entire generation of Americans started working and saving and buying a house in the early 1970s—and millions of them hit the trifecta, becoming successful in their careers even as their stocks rose and the value of their real-estate soared. I doubt that particular combination is going to happen again in the U.S., but the experience of that generation is so powerful as to give a lot of people a lot of hope. Even if that hope isn’t particularly rational.

Megan McArdle considers it and concludes, “If you’re saving a little bit in the expectation that your 401(k) will boom, your house will appreciate, and Social Security will support you, you may well end up in big trouble.”

Which may well be true, but it ignores the eventual factor of inheritance from that privileged generation, even if their property is diminished in value. But that, then, locks in wealth to certain classes.

We’ve seen this before in American history—with, for instance, the perpetuated upper and middle classes of Massachusetts in the nineteenth century. The privileged little boys and girls who, with just enough money not to have to work, worked so hard at abolition, and literature, and Unitarianism.

What will this new generation do, so far from the puritans who were still at the root of the old Adams and Lowells and Alcotts?

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles