Rising affluence usually translates into optimism about the future. One of the chief findings from the vast World Values Surveys is that economic development generally elevates happiness, well-being, and satisfaction with life.
Why, then, are so many people in affluent societies pessimistic about their children’s future?
The majority of Americans and Europeans don’t believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In fact, the citizens of most of the countries with advanced economies are pretty gloomy about their children’s prospects. Conversely, the citizens of many emerging-market societies see a bright future for their children.
The reason for these differences is the rate of economic development. This is shown clearly in this graph from Pew. Those who live in nations with the fastest GDP growth are optimistic about their children’s future. China and Vietnam are prime examples. Nations with slow growth (like the US) or negative growth (like Italy or Spain) exhibit lots of pessimism.
Other factors matter, of course. Argentineans, Lebanese, and Tanzanians are experiencing fast GDP growth, but they are less optimistic than they should be, given their rate of economic change. Conversely, Ukrainians have experienced negative economic growth but they are more optimistic than nations with similar economic experiences.
How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future prospects of today’s children?
Are your surprised that so many people in affluent societies are pessimistic about their children’s future?
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