Skip to Content

Just Half of Young People See American Dream in Reach, Poll Finds. Parents Are More Optimistic

A recent poll found that just half of people aged 15-to-26 thought their household finances would be better than their parents, while 20% expected worse. Parents of these young people might be expected to be more cynical, but 60% said they thought their children would eventually be better off than them, and 12% worse. The remainder, in both cases, thought they’d wind up about the same.

The poll, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Aug. 23 to Sept. 10, asked about a growing area of concern that the rising generation could be the first to not broadly expect to earn more at age 30 than their parents. Recent research finds that about half of people born in 1984 exceeded their parents’ income at age 30, and the trend has been downward for several decades. More than 90% of children born in the 1940s hit that mark, for instance.

Parents and their teenagers and young adults had other disparities in their expectations, though some of them favor young people. Asked whether they thought their parents would help with a payment, parents were ‘likely’ to ‘much more likely’ to say that they would than their kids’ expected.

For instance, 43% of people aged 15 to 26 in the poll said their parents would be ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to pay an unexpected bill of $1,000, while 61% of the parents said they would pay such a bill. A survey in January 2018 by Bankrate found that only 39% could cover an unanticipated bill that high with savings on hand, while 12% said they would borrow from family or friends.

The poll also found that 69% of people aged 15-26 disapproved of President Donald Trump performance as president ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly,’ while the 57% of the parents of people in that age range disapproved as well.