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April 24, 2009
Hard Times Don't Necessarily Equate To Pessimism about Earnings
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spite of the tough times currently being experienced by many Americans, as a group we are looking at the big picture with optimism, says a recent public opinion poll by Pew’s Economic Mobility Project. Nearly 8 out of 10 Americans believe it is still possible to improve their economic standing, and remain optimistic that their family’s economic circumstances will improve within their lifetime and across generations.

"Although the current economic crisis seems to be deepening each day and many families are feeling the pinch – either through company layoffs, decreasing home values or loss of retirement savings – Americans are taking a longer-term view," said John E. Morton, managing director of Economic Policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "We may be struggling in our daily lives, but Americans are confident in themselves and their ability to get ahead in the future."

More than two-thirds of the survey’s respondents believe that their personal economic circumstances will be better in the next 10 years. Most parents (62%). believe that their children will have a higher standard of living than they had. As a group, African Americans are the most optimistic about these prospects, with 85% saying they believe their economic circumstances will be better in 10 years. By comparison, 71% of whites and 77% of Hispanics felt the same way. In terms of income, 54% of whites say their children will have a harder time moving up the income ladder than they have experienced, compared to 34% of African Americans and 41% of Hispanics.

"This research shows that Americans throughout our diverse society have an abiding faith in their ability to get ahead," said Ianna Kachoris, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project ( "However, our economic analysis has previously reported there are considerable racial gaps in mobility, as well as significant immobility for many Americans at the bottom of the income ladder. People’s perception of their ability to get ahead may not necessarily coincide with reality, and special attention should be paid to improving mobility for all Americans."

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