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Americans Say They’re Worse Off Today Than Fifty Years Ago

A Pew Research Center poll from the spring found that most Americans think the previous generation was better off.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted this past spring asked residents of numerous countries around the world if they think they are better off today than the previous generation.

The majority of people in 20 countries said yes, they are better off today. But the United States was not one of those countries.

The U.S. was among the other 18 countries in which people said they were actually worse off than half a century ago. In Senegal, 45% felt this way, followed by Nigeria (54%), Kenya (53%), the U.S. (41%), Ghana (47%), Brazil (49%), France (46%), Hungary (39%), Lebanon (54%) and Peru (46%). Venezuela, which has suffered from political unrest and economic turbulence in recent years, was last on the list. Some 72% people there said they felt worse off than 50 years ago (only after Mexico, Jordan and Argentina).

Why?

In the U.S., the rich appear to be leaving the middle class behind. The American middle class made up just 26% of incomes in 2014, down from 46% in 1979, adjusted for inflation, according to a separate report released last June by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy group. The upper middle class controlled 63% of all income in 2014, up from just 30% in 1979. And it isn’t because more middle-class Americans are richer: Middle-income households make up 120.8 million of the population, almost as much as upper middle-class and lower-income Americans combined.

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