Millennial, Gen Z Young Women Face Increased Threats to Health and Safety Compared With Peers in Previous Generations, Despite Better Education, Pay
November 30, 2023
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New Report Details Unfulfilled Promise of Generational Progress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Progress for today’s young women—those primarily ages 25 to 34 in 2019-2021—has declined in comparison to those before them, according to a new report by Population Reference Bureau, “Losing More Ground: Revisiting Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations.” The report details how young women’s lives in the United States have been upended in recent years, from the COVID-19 pandemic; to the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade’s reproductive health protections; to increased political divisiveness, rising inflation, and the impacts of social media. Where data are available, the report includes new insights on the teenage girls of Gen Z (born in 2000 or later). The analysis presents an updated picture of Millennial women’s health and well-being relative to women of the same age from Generation X, the Baby Boom, and the Silent Generation.
The data show that despite decades of progress between the 1960s and 1990s, each successive generation of women in the United States no longer does better than prior generations. This promise of progress began waning with Generation X and has continued to decline, with Millennial women’s physical health and safety worsening over the past several years, threatened by rising suicide, homicide, and maternal mortality rates.
“Young women today are obtaining college degrees and entering the workforce in record numbers to achieve their generation’s version of the American Dream. But structural barriers to health and safety are preventing many of them from reaching their full potential,” said Diana Elliott, Vice President for U.S. Programs, Population Reference Bureau. “Increased rates of suicide and homicide, and a lack of access to health care services like safe abortion, have the combined effect of reversing the health and safety gains women of previous generations experienced, especially women of color.”
Among women ages 25 to 34, suicide rates have climbed from 4.4 deaths per 100,000 for Generation X to 7 deaths per 100,000 for Millennial women. While suicide rates have declined among young white women, they have increased for young women of color; American Indian and Alaska Native young women face a suicide rate 3 times that of their white peers.
For Millennial women ages 25 to 34, maternal mortality rates have surged, from 19.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013-2015 to 30.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019-2021.
The homicide rate for Millennial women ages 25 to 34 has increased to 4.5 deaths per 100,000 women compared to 4.3 deaths for Generation X women of the same age, reversing a trend of generational improvement previously seen in 2017. The homicide rate is particularly stark for Millennial Black women, at 14 deaths per 100,000 women in 2019-2021 compared to 9 per 100,000 in 1999-2001—a nearly 60% increase.
These health and safety declines are occurring despite young women’s progress on several indicators of economic well-being and their labor force participation remaining steady or improving across generations.
The share of women with at least a bachelor’s degree has increased, with 43.6% of young Millennial women completing a college education compared to 28% percent of their Generation X peers, though gaps persist by race and ethnicity.
The incarceration rate for women has declined for the first time in more than 50 years, falling 19% to 69.7 women in prison per 100,000 during the 2019-2021 period compared to 86 per 100,000 when Generation X women were young adults (1999-2001).
Millennial young women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s have increased compared to the wages of their Generation X peers, rising from 82.4 cents per dollar to 89.7 cents per dollar.
About the PRB Index of Young Women’s Well-Being
Population Reference Bureau (PRB) first sounded the alarm on the decline in generational progress with its 2017 “Losing Ground” report and Index of Young Women’s Well-Being, describing how young women’s progress had stalled since the Baby Boom generation. The 2023 analysis “Losing More Ground” shows that Millennial young women’s well-being is declining as they experience more economic uncertainty and threats to their physical well-being than their peers in past generations. Despite improvements in women’s economic well-being, young women and men today both report high levels of stress related to inflation, money, housing costs, and the economy.
Defining the Generations
In “Losing More Ground,” PRB studies women primarily ages 25 to 34 in each generation. While generational definitions can differ slightly by source, PRB uses the following:
Silent Generation: born 1928 to 1945
Baby Boom:born 1946 to 1964
Generation X: born 1965 to 1980
Millennial: born 1981 to 1999
Gen Z: born 2000 and later
About Population Reference Bureau
PRB is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research organization focused on improving people’s health and well-being through evidence-based policies and practices. To learn more, visit www.prb.org. Follow us on X @PRBdata and on LinkedIn.