So, hey, fun fact: All that social progress we’ve made since the Boomer generation? We apparently haven’t made as much as we think. According to a new report from the Population Research Bureau, Millennial women aren’t any better off than our mothers when it comes to our well-being. It might seem counterintuitive — “But we have made so much progress!” you might think. “We can have credit cards now, and access to birth control, and all sorts of other awesome things that we couldn’t have back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s!” — but while all of that is true, we’re also seeing a good deal of the progress that’s been made getting rolled back. And that is horrifying.
Said Beth Jarosz, Senior Research Associate of U.S. Programs for the Population Research Bureau in a video accompanying the report, “In some ways, women are doing better today than they were during the World War II or the Baby Boom generation, but overall, there are areas in which progress has stalled, and that has brought overall well-being down.”
Indeed, according to the "Losing Ground: Young Women's Well-Being Across Generations in the United States" report, the well-being of women Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — increased 66 percent from the World War II generation; however, the women of Generation X, who were born between 1965 and 1981, saw a mere two percent increase in well-being from the Boomers. And hey, guess what happened for Millennials women? For those born between 1982 and 2002, well-being went down by one percent from Gen X.
As Associate Vice President of U.S. Programs Mark Mather notes in the "Losing Ground" video, much of the research that’s been done examining women’s well-being compares women and men — but there hasn’t been a ton of research comparing how women of today’s generations are doing compared to how they did in previous generations. That’s what the Losing Ground report hoped to highlight — and the results are eye-opening.
Here are just a few of the key measures of well-being on which momentum has stalled for Millennial women, or even reversed — that is, here are a few reasons why we're so much worse off than our mothers and grandmothers. (I still can’t get over that, by the way — the fact that we’ve reversed in a lot of ways. That’s not the way progress works. It’s immensely upsetting):
- The proportion of women between 30 and 34 years of age living in poverty. For Gen X, the rate was about 12 percent. It increases to about 17 percent for Millennials.
- Maternal mortality rates. Boomers had the lowest maternal mortality rates. They were higher for Gen X, and even higher for Millennials.
- Suicide rates foryoung women. For Gen X, they were about 4.4 per 100,000. It’s risen for Millennials, to about 6.3 per 1000,000.
- Women in STEM. About one in five Millennial workers in high-paying STEM jobs are women. This is drop from the previous generation; for Gen X, the rate was one in four.
- Women’s incarceration rates. Between the World War II and Millennial generations, they’ve grown 10-fold. That is bananas.
As HuffPost points out, it’s worth noting that the report doesn’t differentiate between specific demographics. But honestly, I’m not totally sure doing so would make the picture look rosier. Yes, we’ve ostensibly made progress since the Boomer era,but not as much as we’d like to think. Consider, for example, that in 2012, the murder rate of LGBTQH people reached an all-time high, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Consider that hate crimes have risen 20 percent since the 2016 election. That’s also the opposite of progress, and it almost certainly will impact the well-being of women (and, y'know, people) with intersecting identities.
I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that this decline in well-being is coming at a time when lawmakers are intent on rolling back what we have gained in the intervening decades. The Roe v. Wade ruling happened in 1973, making it a major victory of the Boomer generation; now, during the Millennial generation, politician after politician keeps pushing to overturn it, despite the fact that most Americans actually support Roe. V. Wade. The FDA approved the birth control pill in 1960, and in 1970, Nixon signed Title X to help low income people more easily access essential reproductive health care — again, both Boomer victories (and, to an extent, Gen X ones); now, though, both are under threat: The AHCA would make birth control much more difficult to access, and Trump has already signed a bill stripping Title X funding from people who need it. The Environmental Protection Agency was created during the Nixon era because our planet was in huge trouble; and now, after all the effort we’ve put during the years since into reversing at least some of the damage we had done, the current administration seems dead set on destroying the Earth.
When you look at it in terms of all that… well, it’s not hard to see why Millennial women's well-being might be suffering in comparison with earlier generations. Yes, there’s a lot of progress we've enjoyed that was initially made before we came along — but now, we’re seeing an awful lot of that progress getting undone. And what’s worse, we’re seeing it being undone by the previous generations — the same folks who originally saw those changes happen in real time, and who aren’t going to have to deal with the aftermath of undoing them all because they’re just not going to be around for it.
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer. I really don’t. But you guys? This is not OK. And it’s a reminder that we need to keep fighting. Call your representatives. Go to protests. Donate what you can. Do whatever you can. Because they can try to take our rights, and with it our well-being — but we will not go quiet into that good night.