Sometimes the politics behind what gets covered as news creates the impression that most Americans believe their country's economy is not doing well.
That's actually not true, as about six in 10 Americans (58%) believe the economic situation in the United States is good, according to a new report from Pew Research. That's stronger than how people in most of the 32 countries surveyed by Pew felt, and well above the median of 46% globally who feel their country's economy is in good shape.
"The U.S. economy has experienced roughly 80 months of job growth and the unemployment rate was only 4.9% in 2016," wrote Pew's Bruce Stokes. "In the spring of 2009, when the jobless rate was 9.3%, just 17% thought economic conditions were good. In 2007, before the economic downturn, 50% said conditions were favorable."
We have recovered
Americans now feel better about the U.S. economy than they did before the economic crash of 2007. That sentiment is true in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Japan as well.
In those five European countries, 51% of those surveyed now give their economy a positive grade. That's likely due to an average positive growth of 1.7% in each of those European Union (EU) nations along with a 7.4% unemployment rate.
"The public's view of the economy is up from a low of 15% across the five EU nations in 2013, when their economies grew at an annual average of only 0.6% and joblessness stood at 9%," wrote Stokes. " In 2007, a median of 36% in those countries said their economic situation was good."
Only 41% of those surveyed in Japan had a positive opinion of their economy. That's still dramatically better than 2012, when only 7% had positive feelings. Japan only had 3.1% unemployment in 2016, down from 4.4% in 2012.
Concerns about the future
While Americans are more optimistic -- at least compared to many nations -- about the present, their views on the future are not as rosy. only 37% of people in the U.S. believe that a child in their country today will grow up to be better off financially than their parents, according to Pew.
That's actually in line with the difference between the developing world and what Pew called "advanced economies." Among developing countries, the median figure of those who believe that children in their countries will be better off financially than the parents was 56%, while 38% feel they will have it worse.
In advanced economies, only 34% of people surveyed expect their children to be better off than they are. Young people, however, don't necessarily share the negative opinion of their own future prospects.
"In more than half of the countries surveyed, people ages 18 to 29 are more optimistic than those ages 50 and older about the next generation's financial prospects," wrote Stokes. " This is true in nations where people feel quite positive about their economy and in societies where people are very negative."
Perception is not reality
What's important to note is that how people view prosperity varies greatly. Clearly the Japanese have different expectations regarding employment than Americans and there are obvious differences between younger and older people.
Going forward economic satisfaction may not be measured as it is now. Millennials have for example shown that they value experiences over acquiring more stuff. If that remains true as they get older (which it may not) they may view themselves as being better off than their parents even if they have less actual wealth.
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