WASHINGTON — Americans’ attitudes about their economic prospects are sharply divided by race, with whites significantly less likely than blacks or Hispanics to think they can improve their own standard of living. Indeed, optimism among minorities now outpaces that of whites by the widest margin since at least 1987, a new analysis shows.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research analysis shows that after years of economic attitudes among whites, blacks and Hispanics following similar patterns, whites’ confidence in their economic future has plummeted in the last decade. Blacks and Hispanics, meanwhile, have sustained high levels of optimism despite being hit hard in the recent recession.
The findings come as President Barack Obama seeks to promote a broader message of economic opportunity amid a rising gap between rich and poor. The AP reported this week that 4 out of 5 U.S. adults have struggled with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives, with white pessimism about their economic future at a 25-year high. More than 40 percent of the poor are white.
The AP-NORC analysis of data from the General Social Survey, a long-running biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found just 46 percent of whites say their family has a good chance of improving their living standard given the way things are in America, the lowest level in surveys conducted since 1987. In contrast, 71 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics express optimism of an improved life — the biggest gap with whites since the survey began asking.