Poll: Many pessimistic about improving living standards – KSAT San Antonio | Ad On Picture

NEW YORK – More than half of Americans believe younger people today are unlikely to have better lives than theirs, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Parents.

Most respondents said starting a family and owning a home is important to them, but more than half said these goals are harder to achieve compared to their parents’ generation. This was especially true for younger people — about seven in 10 Americans under the age of 30 believe homeownership has become more difficult to achieve.

About half of respondents also say they find it difficult to improve their standard of living, with many citing both economic conditions and structural factors.

Josean Cano, 39, a Chicago bus operator who is Hispanic, said he had a harder time economically than his parents. He cited inflation, high housing costs and the recent shortage of baby food as examples.

“Things have doubled and tripled in price,” he said. “We’re not talking sneakers or concert tickets here. We talk about the essentials. Six months ago you couldn’t find PediaSure. And if you could find it, it would be $20. It used to be $11 at Target.”

Cano also pointed out that the real purchasing power of the minimum wage is higher for previous generations, and rents and education costs are more reasonable.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the federal minimum wage in 2021 was worth 34% less than it was in 1968, when its purchasing power peaked.

“Many people perceive that their opportunities are less than in the past,” said University of Chicago professor Steven Durlauf, who studies inequality and helped create the study. “A lot of wellbeing has to do with relative status, not absolute status.”

The study also revealed clear partisan disagreements as to whether structural factors contribute to social mobility.

Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say that factors such as parental wealth, the community one lives in, higher education, race and ethnicity, and gender strongly influence social mobility. Black and Hispanic adults were also more likely than White adults to say college education, race and ethnicity, and gender were very important factors.

Acacia Barraza, 35, who lives in Las Lunas, New Mexico, and works as a staff services coordinator, said she’s more optimistic about social mobility for Hispanics ahead of former President Donald Trump’s election. Barraza is Hispanic and Native American.

“Before, I would have thought we’d made progress,” she said. “That we would be able to have more and be more. But we fight the same battles as our parents did. Trump has brought it back to the fore.”

Barraza said student debt she and her husband have has made it harder to start a family and work toward buying a home.

According to data from the Department of Education, average student loan debt has increased for all generations, reaching record highs. Of adults under 30 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 49% have student loan debt. Federal borrowers 24 and under have an average of $14,434, 25-34 year olds average $33,570, and 35-49 year olds average $43,208.

Mark Claffey, 52, disabled, white, and living in Logan, Ohio, said that “everything costs more now” than it did for his parents’ generation.

“Back then you could do something with a limited budget,” he said. “You could do more with less. Bread costs less than a dollar.”

Now Claffey says he and his wife are on their fixed income budgets at the end of the month. He also believes the country is more divided and polarized along partisan lines than in previous eras.

Compared to younger people, Americans aged 60 and over are more likely to believe that it is easier for them to achieve a good standard of living than their parents, the survey found.

Just 35% of adults over 60 said it was “much or a little more difficult” to achieve a good standard of living, compared with 54% of adults aged 18-29.

The survey also found that black Americans have a more positive outlook on upward mobility for future generations than do white Americans.

Survey respondent Glen McDaniel, 70, who is black and works as a medical laboratory scientist in Atlanta, said he has “a certain optimism” about the prospect of future generations having a better standard of living because he “knows for sure it will.” is possible, nothing you read in a book.”

“I’ve seen a lot of history through those eyes,” he said. “There were times when even someone who looked like me couldn’t go to college. We would have to think when we go on vacation – would people who look like us be safe or would we be bothered? It’s incredible to think that was in my lifetime.”

McDaniel said his mother started college but dropped out, and he went to the University of Toronto. He said seeing advances in technology also contributes to his sense that future generations could see gains.

McDaniel added that his optimism is “somewhat limited by the current political climate.”

“There’s still a climate of people coming out from under the rocks, motivated by their worst fears,” he said. “It’s not as obvious as it was when I was a kid. But it’s still part of the American ethos.”


The survey of 1,014 adults was conducted August 25-29 using a sample from NORC’s AmeriSpeak Probability-Based Panel, which is intended to be representative of the US population. The range of sampling error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for all respondents.


Follow AP’s coverage of financial wellbeing at https://apnews.com/hub/financial-wellness


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