July 15, 2008— -- There's a stress gap in America, and financial insecurity's fueling it.
Women -- especially single women -- are significantly less likely than men to describe themselves as financially secure. So are Democrats compared with Republicans, and in an especially big gap, less-educated vs. better-educated Americans.
And stress follows.
Overall, almost two-thirds of adults in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll report at least some stress caused by their financial situation; especially troublesome is "major" stress, reported by one in four adults. That's a lot of big-time stress -- and naturally, it peaks among those who lack financial security.
Even with difficult economic conditions – $4 gas, falling home prices and now the prospect of bank failures -- the world's not ending: Sixty-three percent of Americans say they're at least somewhat secure financially. But far fewer are "very" secure, 21 percent. If being very secure financially is an important element of the American dream, a lot of people are losing sleep.
These measures do not capture all elements of consumer sentiment. ABC's Consumer Comfort Index, which hit a 22-year low in May, includes a rating of personal well-being, but also views of the national economy and the buying climate, which are markedly more negative.
Financial security ranges widely: Seventy-eight percent of college graduates rate themselves as financially secure, compared with just 51 percent of people who haven't gone beyond high school. And while three-quarters of married men say they're financially secure, that plummets to just half of unmarried women.
Where security is lacking, stress rises. One in three unmarried women report major stress as a result of their financial situation, compared with one in seven married men. Major stress is twice as prevalent among Democrats vs. Republicans, twice as high among less-educated Americans vs. college graduates and 14 points higher among blacks than whites.
All these relate to the big factor, income.
Among people with household incomes over $100,000, 78 percent say they're at least somewhat secure financially, and just 9 percent report major financial stress. The numbers are similar in $50,000-$100,000 households. But among the nearly half of Americans with incomes under $50,000, just 48 percent are even somewhat secure financially, 77 percent report at least some financial stress, and 37 percent – nearly four in 10 – say money's a major cause of stress in their lives.