The Optimistic Generation?

February 15th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

A new poll indicates that Millennials are more positive about the future than the rest of Americans. Can we learn from them?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Last week, in the highest three-day reading since Gallup began tracking the topic in January 2008, 57 percent of Americans reported that they felt their standard of living was improving.

While Gallup’s report says that Americans’ optimism about their standard of living has generally been improving since the beginning of the year, it also points to an interesting trend: Millennials, the generation within which many members entered the workforce during the darkest economic days in recent history, are the most positive about the future. In fact, eight in 10 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 feel optimistic about their standards of living.

This high degree of optimism amongst Millennials, which The Daily Beast regularly refers to as “the screwed generation,” is a surprising result. According to The Pew Research Center, the wealth gap between younger and older Americans is now the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth of younger households is down 68 percent from 25 years ago.

Gallup offers an explanation for the optimism apparent in young Americans, positing, “This most likely reflects the fact that for older Americans, the economics of daily life are more fixed, whereas for younger Americans, it is much more likely that their income or other aspects of their living standards will improve.” The poll shows that optimism declines as age increases: 56 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds see their living standards as getting better, as opposed to 41 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and only 28 percent of Americans ages 65 and over.

Overall, Gallup says, the results of the poll are a positive sign that overall faith in the economy is on the rise. But does this optimism reflect reality? Or perhaps more importantly, does it need to, or should it be a lesson to us all that having a more mutable attitude toward the economics of daily life can have an effect on our general outlook? Weigh in here.