Losing More Ground: Revisiting Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations

Despite more education and higher earnings, young women in the United States today are faring worse than their mother's and grandmother's generations. Why?
(Population Bulletin vo. 77, no. 1)

Watch the discussion of the report’s findings from our Dec. 14, 2023 webinar.


Despite decades of progress between the 1960s and 1990s, each generation of women in the United States does not do better than the generation before—not anymore. In fact, young women of the Millennial Generation have lost ground on key areas of health and safety since our original Index of Young Women’s Well-Being and 2017 report.

PRB’s Population Bulletin, “Losing More Ground: Revisiting Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations,” presents an updated analysis on the well-being of women ages 25 to 34 to understand how this group has fared across the Silent Generation, the Baby Boom, Generation X, and the Millennial Generation. Where data are available, we include insights on the teenage girls of Gen Z.1

Our analysis shows improvement for Millennial women in some areas, such as increased education and earnings and decreased rates of women’s incarceration. But important measures of health and safety are headed in the wrong direction, including rates for maternal mortality, suicide, and homicide. This decline in well-being has in many ways intensified amidst rapid changes to the social and economic landscape brought on by factors such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Dobbs decision overturning reproductive health protections that had been in place since the Silent Generation.

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Key Findings

  • Climbing suicide rates. Among women ages 25 to 34, suicide rates have risen from 4.4 deaths per 100,000 for Generation X to 7 deaths per 100,000 for Millennial women. In recent years, suicide rates have declined among young white women, but 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.
  • Surging maternal mortality. For Millennial women ages 25 to 34, maternal mortality rates have swelled, from 19.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013-2015 to 30.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019-2021.
  • Rising homicide rates. Millennial women ages 25 to 34 have a homicide rate of 4.5 deaths per 100,000 women compared to 4.3 deaths for young women of Generation X, 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.

  • Higher education. Nearly 44% of Millennial young women are completing a college education with at least a bachelor’s degree. This share is up from 28% of Generation X young women. Gaps persist by race and ethnicity.
  • Lower incarceration rate. Women’s incarceration rate has declined for the first time in more than 50 years, with just under 70 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).
  • Increased earnings. Millennial young women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s have increased compared to the wages of their Generation X peers, rising just over 7 cents, from 82.4 cents per dollar to 89.7 cents per dollar.


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  1. 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.