Global pessimism about the next generation’s financial future continues to rise. In Pew’s annual survey, the median share of respondents who believe children today will be worse off than their parents has hit 70%. (Pew Research Center)
NH: When asked how children in their country will fare financially when they grow up, a median 70% of adults across 19 countries say they will be worse off than their parents.
The most pessimistic country is Japan, where 82% of respondents said that children will be worse off. Next are France (78%), Italy (76%), and Canada (75%). Rounding out the top five are the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, and Australia, which are tied at 72%.
In general, it's the richest countries that are most pessimistic, with poorer developed countries like Hungary and Poland appearing near the bottom of the list (at 51% and 42%, respectively). (See "Rich Countries Have Lost Faith in Upward Mobility.") The least pessimistic country by a wide margin is Israel, where just 27% of adults believe that children will be worse off.
Out of the 19 countries polled in the latest survey, 15 were also polled in 2021. (See “Post-Pandemic Pessimism.”)
In all but one of these countries, pessimism has worsened, most sharply in Australia (72%, up from 60%), the Netherlands (66%, up from 54%), Canada (75%, up from 68%), and Singapore (42%, up from 35%).
In the United States, the share who said “worse off” ticked up 4 percentage points. The lone country where pessimism did not increase was South Korea, where it remained the same at 60%. Pew has been asking this question since 2013, and in most of the countries surveyed, the level of pessimism is at or near record highs.
Keep in mind that the public's long-term future outlook might be even worse than what's indicated here.
This poll was conducted in the spring of 2022, when the current economic conditions in nearly all of these countries was better than it is today, especially in Europe. Long-term views are nearly always correlated with short-term views. Thus, when the short-term situation worsens, as it has today, so does the long-term view.
There may also be a tendency, over the last decade, for the long-term outlook to worsen even in years when the short-term outlook gains. In a 2020 NORC poll, Americans expressed record levels of pessimism about the standard of living for the next generation even as a near-record share reported they were satisfied with their own current financial situation. (See "America Is Registering Record Levels of Unhappiness.")
Given today's high inflation and dour consumer sentiment, it's certain that the pessimism about current conditions has risen--and pessimism about the long-term future has risen even more. When these numbers are available, we will report them.
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ABOUT NEIL HOWE
Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.
A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.
Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."
Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.
Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.
Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.