Awhile back, a survey was conducted by Pew that wanted to answer the question of how Americans viewed themselves. Are they better off than, say, a decade ago? Do Americans consider themselves wealthy? Struggling? Poverty ridden? The study, conducted by several economic analysts associated with Pew, revealed more of us believe we’re lower class from a financial aspect. The way we see money, credit and the future of our children is revealing. Here’s a bit of what they found.
One of the most interesting aspects is found in the number of Americans who say they are in the lower-middle or lower class. That number has increased in three short years from around 25% to 33%. Those who are younger than thirty believe they’re in the lower class than ever before. And, it’s most whites and Hispanics who believe this. For blacks, the numbers are a bit more stable from three years ago. Now, around the same number of races – around a third of each – believe they are lower class in terms of finances.
Wondering about politics? If you’re a Democrat, you are more likely to believe you’re in the lower class than your Republican counterparts. Interestingly, more Republicans believe they’re rising in financial class. A full 85% of Americans who say they’re in the lower class – whether they’re Republican or Democrat – say they are cutting back their spending in significant ways. Meanwhile, 62% of those in the middle class as well as 41% of those who say they are upper class have cut back on their respective spending habits. Those in the lower class report they’re more often unhappy, too.
As they look to their own future and that of their children, many in the lower class see their prospects dimming. About three-quarters (77%) say it’s harder now to get ahead than it was 10 years ago. Only half (51%) say that hard work brings success, a view expressed by overwhelming majorities of those in the middle (67%) and upper classes (71%). While the expectation that each new generation will surpass their parents is a central tenet of the American Dream, those lower classes are significantly more likely than middle or upper-class adults to believe their children will have a worse standard of living than they do.
Other findings –
The share of college graduates who place themselves in the lower class grew from 12% to 17%.
Roughly a third of all men (34%) and women (31%) say they are in the lower class, an eight-and seven-percentage point increase from 2008.
One question posed to the participants included where they would place their families in terms of class during their childhoods. The findings revealed than slightly more than 60% say they were raised in the lower class. This suggests few believe they’ve left the lower class based on where they rank themselves today. Approximately 12% say they grew up in upper-class families and are still in the upper class.
But what about the finances? How do people see themselves today than, say, five or ten years ago? Here’s what the study found.
Those who say they are in the lower class are far more likely to face financial difficulties. They’re also less likely to own credit cards and bank accounts. Only 11% of those in the lower class say they’ve not faced late payments on installment loans, credit cards (those who have them) and rent. They’re also much more likely to have cut back significantly in their spending. They struggle to make payments on medical bills, as well. More in the lower class have faced layoffs than those in upper classes. Middle class adults are three times as likely and upper class adults five times as likely to have escaped these types of financial problems. Not only that, but 35% in the lower class faced at least four or all five of the problems specified in the survey. Only 10% of middle-class adults and just 3% of the upper class.
Close to 85% of people in the lower class cut back their household spending, compared with 62% of the middle class and 41% of the upper class. Slightly more than six in ten lower-class adults had trouble paying their bills, more than twice the rate of the middle class or the upper class. Meanwhile, half of those in the lower class had difficulty paying for medical care for themselves or their families. Meanwhile, 20% of those in the middle class and 10% in the upper class faced similar problems making their medical payments.
Finally, there are differences that also emerged when it comes to housing. Close to 90% of homeowners in all classes say they are happy with their homes, but only 60% of renters feel the same. Three quarters of whites who say they are lower class are satisfied with their housing and 65% and 69% of Hispanics and blacks, respectively, say the same.