Yesha Callahan

Black Millennials Struggle to Get Ahead Financially Because They Help Family


Being a millennial can be tough, but for many millennials of color, the burden placed on them by family members needing financial help can make it virtually impossible to get ahead.

Writing for the Atlantic, Mel Jones breaks down why young Black and Latin@ people have such a hard time building wealth.

During key times in their lives when they should be building assets, they’re spending money on basic necessities and often helping out family. Their financial future is a rocky one, and much of it comes down to how much—or how little—assistance they receive.

A seminal study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives on wealth accumulation estimates that as much as 20 percent of wealth can be attributed to formal and informal gifts from family members, especially parents. And it starts early. In college, black and Hispanic Millennials are more likely to have to work one or two jobs to get through, missing out on opportunities to connect with classmates who have time to tinker around in dorm rooms and go on to found multibillion-dollar companies together. Many of them take on higher levels of student debt than their white peers, often to pay for routine expenses, such as textbooks, that their parents are less likely to subsidize.

…Recent polls indicate that a large portion of Millennials receive financial help from parents. At least 40 percent of the 1,000 Millennials (ages 18 to 34) polled in a March USA Today/Bank of America poll get help from parents on everyday expenses. A Clark University poll indicated an even higher number, with almost three-quarters of parents reporting that they provide their Millennial children with financial support. Another survey saw nearly a third of Baby Boomers paying for Millennials’ medical expenses. A quarter of Boomers subsidized “other expenses” so their Millennial offspring could save money. Black and Hispanic Americans are less likely to be the recipients of this type of support.

One reason millennials of color aren’t able to receive as much help as their white counterparts is due to the racial wealth gap, which has been exacerbated by systematic racism and discriminatory financial practices. These challenges often mean Black and Latin@ households accumulate financial assets at much slower rates than their white counterparts, or not at all.

Jones writes:

“Wealth inequality can’t be discussed without talking about race; within the American context, they are inseparable…For black Millennials in particular, studies point to a legacy of discrimination over several centuries that contributed to less inherited wealth passed down from previous generations. This financial disparity stems from continuous shortfalls in their parents’ net worth and low homeownership rates among blacks, which works to create an unlevel playing field.”

Despite the extra added burden of helping family members, of color are still some of the most creative, innovative people in America. While their dreams may take longer to reach, they continue to try to make them happen.

Are you struggling to get ahead financially because you help your family out? Sound off! 

  1. December 2, 2015 - Reply

    This is an important article. First, the post WWII was historic. It caused a massive explosion of wealth from 1945 to 1975. After that was when select multinational corporations increased their power into another level and then trickled down economics and other neoliberal policies took hold. These policies along with discrimination, etc. increased wealth inequality. Today, we still suffer the effects of the Great Recession (which caused massive foreclosures in the black community and a lot of wealth was gone in our community as a product of that recession). The Millennials today suffer by the bad economic policies of the past. This is not the time to promote selfish individualism. We have to see each other as a community and find unique ways to build up generational wealth and advance more ownership (especially of property, homes, and land. Land is key for liberation as Malcolm X taught us decades ago). Also, we have to tackle poverty. Part of tackling poverty deals with community development programs, increasing the minimum wage, building facilities to help the homeless, advocating investments in our communities, etc. It’s all about treating the poor as human beings. No revolutionary can be a revolutionary unless they have compassion for the poor. It’s going to take many solutions.

    There is no one solution to solve this crisis. Black Wall Street has shown us the effectiveness of pooling resources. We must be engage in social change. Without a clean environment, we won’t have a world to prosper in. Without health care for all, more of our people will be sick. Once racism and discrimination is combated, our black people can live in a more fruitful direction. Some talk about a code of conduct. I have no problem with that. Also, we need to end structural oppression too. Oppression is in the system, so the current system must end if we are to be free. As for answering the question in the article, I supply my family money for a rainy day or if it is a necessity like paying bills, etc. I am not struggling financially. Family is family.

    • December 2, 2015 - Reply


      • December 2, 2015 - Reply

        @Eyes Wide Shut

        Thank you.

    • December 2, 2015 - Reply

      I agree, truth. Millenials are often also saddled with crippling debt if we choose to seek post-secondary education that we have to pay for many years after we finish. Then struggle to climb our way to the top for those who are lucky enough to find a job that’s actually related to their field of study.

      • December 2, 2015 - Reply


        Excellent Words

        Massive college debt have been a huge burden for Millennials and their families. It is a shame. That is why do advocate code and STEM for black youth at an early age. We will continue to fight for what is right.

    • December 2, 2015 - Reply

      We were told if we went to school, we wouldn’t have to bear the financial burdens or our parents and grandparents. Yet here I am in my second year of post graduate schooling, with debt that amounts to the cost of a house. And guess what law school friends? Some states bars are now saying if you have too much debt, it is an issue of ethics and responsibility and they don’t have to admit you to the bar.

      • December 2, 2015 - Reply

        @i mean

        That’s so messed up. Tons of people have massive debts and they are responsible and ethical people. It’s the terrible college debt system that has caused much of these problems. This is why many people have to work multiple jobs to afford for the basic necessities of life. This is the age of austerity too unfortunately. Back in the day, there was the GI Bill, less college debt, and many services. I wish the best for you Sister.

  2. December 2, 2015 - Reply

    There was a crime documentary that feature a well off white widow who had been fleeced of her money by a con artist
    The woman now in her 60’s had to downsize lost her home got a little apt / got a 9-5 job as a receptionist at a local retirement home though she had never worked a DAY in her life due to her husbands money taking care of her before and after his death
    Now this woman adult kids were well off doctors business people etc and she NEVER asked them for a dime
    I remember admiring her practical approach and independence as in our community that would automatically be grounds for the kids to take care of you
    I have no problem helping out family but this culture of expectation that your kids are responsible for your every bill once they start to work is one of the things that is preventing us from building generational wealth

    • December 3, 2015 - Reply


      Black Millennials are PHENOMENAL!!!


      I have no problem helping out family …

      I have on-going conversations with my Millennial nieces and maybe YOU are “HELPING”, but based on my experiences, “THEY” don’t want “HELP”, they want others to FINANCE their Life Choices.

      I have wasted 10s of Thousands of $$$$ (creative financing) “trying to HELP” when in actuality I was enabling and teaching them how to misuse me and others for their own selfish, self-serving, superficial pursuits.

      My unsolicited advise to my nieces: You have your own Life Work / Life Journey, you are not to WASTE time nor Money on them.

  3. December 2, 2015 - Reply

    Just another perspective: I think that many millennials suffer from being first-generation success. Many of us were born to young parents or parents that lack higher education. So if one is fortunate enough to land that good paying job, they appear to be living the dream and become the financial security blanket for their families, rather than those families doing what’s necessary to get their assets together. I know too many hard-working, debt-laden young people who are the human emergency fund for their fiscally irresponsible relatives.

    • December 3, 2015 - Reply



      I’m sure that’s the angle they will exploit if it works for them.

      I’m 50+ and my paternal grandfather with his third grade education, kept us homed, fed and clothed.

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