Poll: Americans Better Off Than Their Parents

PHOTO: Gallup poll shows 69% of Americans think they are better off financially than their parents whey they were the same age.
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A majority of Americans said they were better off financially than their parents were at the same age, although older adults were more positive about their wealth than younger people were, according to a Gallup poll.

Of 1,012 adults surveyed, 69 percent said they're better off financially than their parents, down from the 74 percent who said so in 1998, the last time Gallup asked this question.

Gallup asked adults age 18 and older: "Think of your parents when they were your age. Would you say you are better off financially than they were, or not?"

"Most Americans still think they are doing better financially than their parents did when they were the same age," Elizabeth Mendes, deputy managing editor at Gallup, wrote in a blog post. "This is positive news, given the difficult state of the U.S. economy over the past several years -- with millions of Americans seeing their home values deteriorate and jobs evaporate."

Homes in the U.S. are expected to lose $681 billion in value in 2011, according to Zillow. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, the lowest this year but still higher than many economists had hoped. Unemployment has remained persistently high since the recession began in 2008, with the country witnessing the longest stretch the jobless rate has stayed over 8 percent since 1948.

Older Americans were more positive in their response than younger respondents for the survey. The poll of Americans 18 and older was taken Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

For respondents age 65 and up, 78 percent said they were better off than their parents while 64 percent of those age 18 to 29 said so.

The Gallup poll results echo a survey from Pew Research Center last month which indicated wealthy older Americans are better-off than those three decades ago in income, employment, homeownership and housing values.

Pew analyzed the economic well-being of older and younger adults and found that the age-based wealth gap, comparing the net worth of those over 65 with those under 35, skyrocketed. In 1984 it was 10:1, and in 2009 it jumped to 47:1.

Perhaps not surprisingly, wealthier Americans said they were better off than their parents than poorer respondents. Eighty percent of those making $75,000 or more per year said they were better off than their parents. Of those making $30,000 per year or less, 52 percent said they are better off.

Gallup said the age and income patterns in this year's survey are "the same" as they were in 1998.

There are generational differences in perceptions of wealth. Earlier this month, Gallup released the results of another poll asking, "how much money per year would you need to make in order to consider yourself rich?"

While the overall median response of the 1,012 adults was an income of $150,000, younger respondents age 18 to 49 had a median amount of $160,000. Those 50 and older said they would feel rich with $100,000.

 
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